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After deciding to ship parcel, finding the best shipping rate seems easy; it is not. Shippers have different options, including a network of regional and local carriers, national carriers, intermodal and hand-offs, add-on services, and much more, that affect the speed of delivery and its cost. To simplify the process, shippers should follow these steps to choosing parcel carriers that work to reduce, not amplify, freight spend.

Choosing Parcel Carriers for Freight Starts by Reviewing Available Shipping Options

Figuring out the best parcel carriers, asserts Chris Franzen, must consider the advantages and disadvantages of different types of shipping options, including parcel hundredweight programs and less-than-truckload.

Define Shipment Influencing Factors and Needs

To make an informed, cost-effective decision, shippers must evaluate the unique needs of the parcel and the options available for each carrier. Some of these factors, reports, include:

  • Market to be shipped within or across, like shipping to international destinations or within the continental U.S.
  • Weight limits, including the maximum, minimum and most common package weights for the item type.
  • Freight insurance, as well as various limits of liability, the speed of payment processing, and ease of claims’ filing.
  • Ship to address type, like shipping to a work address, P.O. Box, or residential location.
  • Surcharges for shipping.
  • Pickup and delivery preferences, like Saturday pickup and delivery.
  • Software that simplifies freight classification, pricing, and freight scheduling. Our TMS, the Cerasis Rater does this, but to calculate freight class, we recommend you use our handy how to calculate freight class flyer as your guide to establish freight class correctly.
  • Supplies necessary for packaging requirements, including pallets, shrink wrap, and braces for LTL shipments.
  • Accuracy of the address, which may vary between physical addresses, shipping addresses, and emergency-identifiable addresses, for example, a 9-1-1 Private Road address versus an estate lot number.
  • Dimensions of the package, which may exclude it from parcel or even freight consolidation for LTL programs.
  • Traceability, using barcodes and handheld scanners at every leg, if not more often, of the shipping journey.

Hold Carriers Accountable for Delivery

Shippers must hold carriers accountable for meeting delivery. If a carrier has previously forgone delivery guarantees or otherwise inaccurately invoiced a shipper, it is a reason to proceed with caution. Implementing a freight auditing program for parcels is an excellent way to identify these added costs and issues, as well as notify carriers of their failure to live up to their end of the contract. As a result, shippers can know which carriers will provide the best service possible.

The Guide to Proactive Inbound, Outbound, and Reverse Enterprise Parcel Management


Is Freight Quoting and Scheduling Automated?

E-commerce does not shut down at night, and shippers may need to obtain parcel quotes or schedule freight after-hours, regardless of the carrier. This is where a transportation management system (TMS) that uses real-time data, as shown in a previous post, can prove its value, automating the quoting and scheduling process. Moreover, having an automated system is only part of the equation. Shippers should work with carriers or TMS providers that offer after-hours support for help in navigating the platform or scheduling a shipment.

Consider the Return Shipping Cost

In today’s age of higher returns resulting from e-commerce purchases, shippers must think about the potential costs of return shipping. Failure to include this could result in the doubling of shipping costs and unnecessary freight spend, which also has implications for a shipper’s liability for hazardous products returned without the proper packaging or labeling, reports Parcel MEDIA.

Look Beyond the Major Parcel Carriers

Shippers may fall into a trap when choosing parcel carriers, opting to work the big-brand carriers, like FedEx, USPS, and UPS solely. Instead of relying solely on the global or national options, shippers should consider the value of local and regional parcel carriers. Local and regional carriers may be able to offer lower rates and faster service than the major players.

Remember the Value of Flat-Rate Parcels Too

As explained by Sonia Varkey of Kyozou, parcel has the distinct advantage of lower shipping costs through available flat-rate options. This is most commonly seen in the United States Postal Service (USPS) flat-rate shipping boxes, marketed for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs).

Work With a Third-Party Logistics Provider

Partnering with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) can be a crucial step in simplifying the analysis of total landed costs for parcel or LTL freight shipping. This may include the use of a TMS-as-a-service, utilizing cloud-based technology and real-time pricing to ensure accuracy and cost guarantees.

In a Nutshell

The major players, including FedEx, UPS, USPS, and DHL, are working to push the envelope of parcel management, and shippers cannot afford to wait on investing in parcel versus LTL freight selection and management. Shippers must streamline choosing parcel carriers by implementing a 3PL-based TMS and apply these best practices in parcel shipping now.