The shipping process can be confusing sometimes. Sure, on the surface it may seem as easy as knowing your inventory, how much to send, where to send, and the expected arrival times, but the finer points of the process might add some unwanted stress. One of those finer points includes the shipment load on your trucks.
Your shipment process is more than simply knowing how much to load onto the vehicle. It’s an intricate decision that can affect your arrival times, volume of inventory that can be shipped, and ultimately your profits. To get into the nitty gritty of your shipping, it’s important to know six major types of shipments and how they compare: less than truckload vs. truckload, full container load vs. less container load, and floor-loaded containers vs. palletized containers.
Less than Truckload (LTL) vs. Full Truckload (FTL)
When shipping via truck, one major factor to consider is how much inventory you want to fill in your trailer. LTL shipping involves having your inventory in a specific amount of space in a trailer rather than loading up the entire area. This is ideal for companies who outsource their shipping and rent the necessary space on the trailer. It is cost-effective if you do not have a lot of inventory to ship with the downside of multiple trips based on what you’re selling.
TL shipping, by contrast, involves using the entire trailer space to ship your products. This process gives you some cost-saving measures as well if you’re shipping enough products to justify the full use of the trailer, leading to less stops on the trip. On the other hand, outsourcing a trailer and using this much space will increase the cost.
Full Container Load (FCL) vs. Less Container Load (LCL)
Beyond how much to fill your trailer or means of transporting the goods, you also need to think about how many products to fit onto your pallet or in your box or crate. With FCL, you are using the full container to your advantage to fill all of your products. This makes it easier in terms of distributing more products at once during one shipment, but also costly if you’re outsourcing.
If you only need to use a portion of the container or pallet for your inventory, LCL shipping might be for you. You only purchase the space you need for your business needs, which saves you in shipping costs. This also allows you to keep a smaller inventory instead of overstocking. The downside to FCL is that the additional steps (consolidating, processing, sorting) can make your overall delivery time take longer.
Floor-loaded Containers vs. Palletized Containers
After you’ve figured out your transportation costs and your loading costs, one of the final things to factor in is your loading method. This will mainly be dependent on the size and shape of your products and their packaging. Floor loading is, as the name implies, stacking from the floor up without using a pallet. For many small businesses or B2B companies that have smaller items or inventory, this can be a cost-saving measure considering the extra weights of pallets. On the other hand, some carriers require pallets for shipping, so this needs to be discussed prior to settling on your distribution model.
For businesses that have larger or more abundant items for distribution, palletization may be the more ideal option. Forklifts can move these shipments around easily and give you more customizable organization in your warehouse regardless of stocking in-house or using fulfillment. As mentioned above, the drawback to using pallets is the additional weight and size that need to be determined in your shipping costs.
Once you crunch the numbers on your transit, container, and loading costs, you’ll be well on your way to shipping your products around the globe.