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LTL vs Parcel: Which Is Best For You?

Making a choice between LTL (less-than-a-truckload) and Parcel is not as straightforward as it used to be. By old school logic, heavy shipments are sent through LTL, while the lighter load was typically shipped through Parcel. Those simple distinctions are no longer apparent, however, as both carriers provide a much broader range of shipping options than what they once offered. This gives consumers a much wider choice of options to select from. Sometimes you’ll find that the lighter loads are more suitable for LTL, while the heavier loads are more cost effective to be sent through Parcel. Knowing which option is best for you requires a bit of research which could end up saving you loads of money down the road.

What Makes Parcel and LTL So Different?

The main differences between the two couriers is weight and size limits, the handling processes used by each courier, the very distinct packaging requirements, and a range of delivery options. Even though they’re both couriers, they’re basically different in almost every way possible.

Size and Weight Limits

LTL vs Parcel is a bit more confusing to distinguish at a glance because there is far more overlap with size and weight restrictions than there has ever been prior. This means that the consumer needs to pay close attention to the finer details in order to attain the best possible shipping rate. When considering the LTL vs Parcel option, try and remember one standard rule that is it is typically better to use LTL with bulk items, regardless of size and weight restrictions. If you’re only shipping a handful of items, then definitely opt to use Parcel.

Transport and Handling Differences

You will find that nearly all of the limitation placed on Parcel shipments depend on how they are handled. These shipments are usually processed on a conveyor belt and then hand loaded into a truck by warehouse employees. That means that the Parcel packages need to be under certain size and weight maximums. Generally, if a Parcel is too heavy for one person to safely lift, or if a Parcel cannot fit on a conveyor belt, then chances are it will not qualify as a Parcel shipment.
LTL, on the other hand, has far fewer restrictions on the Parcel size  because the Parcels are handled far less and typically moved in bulk loads. Giant forklifts will usually carry large shipping pallets or crates from one location to the next, readying them for freight shipments by sea, land, or air. The individual Parcels will typically never leave the larger freight storage vessel until they reach their final destination, and even then,
they can often be delivered in a large bulk freight format as well.

Different Packaging Requirements

When it comes to how shipments are packaged, with LTL they are typically
organized on pallets or within large crates. Once filled, they are then shrink wrapped for an extra layer of protection. With regard to Parcel shipments, they are typically packaged in small to large cardboard boxes that house styrofoam or bubble wrap to keep the box contents from breaking.

Making a Final Choice

Regardless of which courier option you choose to use between LTL and Parcel, it is more important than ever before to understand all of the finer distinctions that make each shipping method unique. Knowing the differences can make a tremendous difference in your company’s overall bottom line. Many companies that do not take the time necessary to fully investigate or stay current with all of the costs, restrictions, and limits possessed by both LTL and Parcel. They then end up losing a large percentage of their profits every year to unnecessary shipping expenses. Doing the proper amount of due diligence isn’t really an option if you want to keep your company in the black on shipping costs.

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