Small Freight Shipping vs. Large Freight Shipping

Posted in Blog on May 06, 2016, tagged with freight classes, freight shipping, preparing for your move

Small Freight Shipping vs. Large Freight Shipping

There are two main types of shipping: small freight and large freight. Knowing which method is best for your residential or commercial move can help you save money and make sure your goods get to their new home safely and efficiently. If you aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of small freight shipping versus large freight shipping and want to learn more, this article will provide the information you need to settle on the best method of transport.

The Three Best Options for Shipping

The most popular and cost-effective methods of shipping are parcel, less-than-truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL). Let’s take a look at each:

  • Parcel shipping is economical for an item or combination of bundled items weighing less than 150 pounds. The “sweet spot” in terms of cost and reliability for most parcel shippers is 10-70 pounds. Parcel shippers have an infrastructure of vans, trucks, and even airplanes, and can efficiently route any shipment quickly and efficiently to its destination.
  • LTL shipping is ideal for an item(s) or item too large and/or heavy for parcel shipping, but too small to fill an entire semitrailer. LTL shippers handle anything from 150 pounds up, and often have specialized niches, such as shipping to particular geographic areas, shipping specific types of items (refrigerated items, extremely fragile items, hazardous items, etc.) or shipping particular types of jobs (residential moving, office furniture moving, etc.). LTL carriers, especially those specializing in what you need shipped, will generally offer the best rates and be in the best position to deliver your item on time and in the same condition it left.
  • FTL shipping is ideal for an item(s) that fills an entire semitrailer. FTL shipping is widely used commercially by large-scale manufacturers and distributors, but is seldom practical for consumers outside of a household move. Nevertheless, there are opportunities to work with FTL shippers and realize a big cost saving (more on that shortly). However, it is never a good idea to give an LTL shipment to a reluctant FTL shipper! You may be successful in negotiating the deal, but your shipment may be a fly in the carrier’s ointment, a distraction. In that case, your shipment may arrive late, and if the FTL shipper is not used to handling your particular item, there may be greater risk of damage.

LTL shipping rates are generally higher than FTL rates, which stands to reason. An LTL shipment involves multiple deliveries to multiple customers of the carrier, whereas an FTL shipment involves one pickup and one delivery — less time, fewer stops. However, if your items take up two-thirds or three-quarters of a truck, you may be able to negotiate an FTL rate if the carrier needs the business, or has other items with which to fill the trailer.

How Freight Charges Are Determined

A lot of factors go into the price you will be charged for transporting freight. For LTL and FTL shippers, the key pricing factors include:

  • Freight Classification. There are 18 different freight classes for truck shipping, and they form the foundation of all carrier rate quotes. The main factor that determines which class your item fits: density. This is common sense. The denser the product, the more material a carrier can fit on the truck. This is why a carrier is more interested in hauling 20 boxes of books than in hauling 20 boxes of pillows three times as large.
  • Configuration, or the shape of the product, also factors heavily in rate quoting. Boxes of books are easier to handle and more efficient to stow than entertainment centers, grandfather clocks and suits of armor. You will likely obtain a lower freight rate by boxing items to make them as uniform as possible.
  • Location is another important factor. If the shipper is picking up a load at a penthouse condo in a congested urban area, its time and effort will be much greater than if it is picking up three pallets of boxed books in a suburban garage. Pickup and destination areas are important more broadly, too — some carriers have established routes to and from given geographies; they will be more efficient at handling certain routes than others.
  • Time.Tight, inflexible shipping destinations increase shipping costs, especially for LTL shippers, since they have to juggle scheduling for multiple customers with every truck. The more time you give the LTL shipper, the better your rate is likely to be.

LTL or FTL for Freight Shipping?

Generally speaking, it is not cost effective to hire an entire truck to transport less-than-truckload quantities — it would be like hiring a stretch limo (or maybe even a helicopter!) to take one person with one suitcase to the airport. There are times, though, when an FTL carrier can be cost-effective:

  • Sometimes FTL carriers make a delivery and have nothing to take back to the home terminal. Traveling empty for hundreds or thousands of miles is very inefficient for FTLs, so they are always interested in “backhaul” jobs, even if they are relatively small loads. If you identify a carrier looking for such a backhaul, you may be able to secure a rate substantially below what an LTL carrier would charge, even one that specializes in just what you need transported.
  • Along similar lines, an FTL carrier may have a smaller load it is committed to deliver — either an established backhaul or a small shipment to a big customer, for instance. In these situations, your two-thirds or three-quarters of a full truck shipment may be just what it is looking for. Again, you may be able to secure a very favorable rate because you are filling space for the carrier and maximizing its efficiency.

Of course, the real trick is finding arrangements like the ones mentioned above. It takes a lot of legwork, phoning carriers, describing your requirements, and talking to someone with the authority and with an adequate understanding of the carrier’s operations to respond positively. This, by the way, is a great example of how Transit Systems helps customers move freight effortlessly. With years of experience in the LTL shipping arena (especially for heavy, valuable and oddly shaped items), we have industry connections and knowledge that enables us to find the best LTL or FTL carrier arrangement for your specific job. If you’d like to let someone else do the legwork to line up your shipping carrier and take care of all other details, contact us now! We are eager to be of service.

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