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Shipping Types and Methods Compared

people working in shipping service

Shipping has been the inevitable element of trading for ages, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that shipping forms and methods have substantially evolved. Original proprietors of goods and their customers have an abundance of shipping options at their disposal today, and the only question is what forms of shipping are the most suited.

There is no universal answer to that question because shipping situations differ from one another. Are you a manufacturer looking to ship your product within your country? Or do you want to distribute the goods globally? How can you increase supply chain efficiency?

How long are you willing to wait as a customer for your item to arrive from the vendor? Will it arrive intact? Choosing an adequate solution among different shipping options is crucial for vendors and customers alike.

We are here to help you make the optimal decision.

Freight Volume Determines the Shipping Form

The shipping method is affected by the size and quantity of your shipment. If the shipment consists of a few fairly small items and the delivery location is nearby, it is both inefficient and costly to rent the whole truck. Optimal shipping options for close inland shipments of higher volume are trucks that can be fully or partially loaded.

The basic shipping options by volume:

  • Parcel shipping
  • Less than truckload (LTL) freight shipping
  • Full truckload (FTL) freight shipping

Let’s see which shipping forms work for you.

Parcel Shipping

Sending packages lighter than 100 pounds via parcel shipping is a time-saving and economical shipping option. This is the fastest among all short-distance forms of shipping because the recipient gets the package within a few days or even the same day you send it. Shipping jewelry and other smaller items is usually carried out this way.

Parcel shipping is not limited to domestic trading, and it can be executed via different transport types. Various combinations of transport vehicles are utilized if you are sending an item abroad or further inland, and it could take some time for the package to arrive at the destination. Nevertheless, this shipping method remains the least expensive and the most time-saving.

LTL Freight Shipping

If your shipment is large, yet too small for a full truck, LTL shipping is your best option. Upon calculating the size of your shipment, shipping companies determine how much space is left in the trailer, and then they fill it up until it’s full. This requires the transportation vehicles to make multiple stops to deliver the goods to various addresses.

Commodities are usually palletized for increased safety because different items are transported at the same time. Pallets usually weigh more than 150 pounds, and shipping costs depend on transport distance, space used, and the class of goods. LTL shipping is a great transportation solution for ecommerce and smaller businesses that experience less trading traffic. It is both a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly shipping method.

FTL Freight Shipping

FTL is the preferred option among all shipping forms if the cargo takes up the whole trailer or slightly less. The truck makes a single pickup, and it transports the goods to the desired location. Additional destination drop-offs can be arranged because your freight is transferred exclusively.

Compared to LTL shipping, this is a time-efficient shipping option because FTL trucks have fewer pickups and drop-offs. Items that you transport via FTL shipping are usually palletized, and the trailer is generally sealed until the truck reaches the drop-off destination. This is important because it reduces the risk of damage caused by multiple pickups and transfers between two or more trucks.

Sealing off the trailer after loading the goods also improves security and the odds of delivering your freight intact. Compared to other shipping forms, FTL shipping is safer because by renting the whole truck squeezing and damaging the merchandise can be avoided.

Vehicles Used in Shipping

So far, we review different shipping forms in terms of trucks and smaller delivery vehicles used to carry the load across the mainland, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are other shipping modes if you want to transport freight further inland, internationally, or across the pond.

Business owners turn to them because they might be more effective and less time-consuming in a specific situation. Some are optional, while others are necessary.

Major transport vehicles are:

  • Trains
  • Airplanes
  • Ships

Let’s dig in to learn more about freight transportation vehicles.

Railway Transport

Trains have been used to transport cargo for centuries, and they remain among the most common forms of shipping goods today. Commodities are stored in freight cars which enable different shipping options like parcel, LTL, and FTL shipping. Using railroads as a way of freight transport is a matter of logistics because trains have predetermined paths and schedules.

Railway transport doesn’t depend on weather conditions that could affect the safety of shipped commodities. Trains avoid traffic jams and have systematic routes that contribute to a higher level of organization. Trains outmatch trucks when it comes to carrying capacity and cargo weight while also being safer than other fully-loaded vehicles. If you are an advocate of green shipping, rail transport is the most eco-friendly of all shipping forms.

Airway Transport

Commonly used as means to ship items all across the world, air transport represents one of two ways of transferring cargo across oceans and large distances. Although there are cases of storing the goods until the plane is full, airway transport is usually utilized for parcel shipping. Lower shipping volume is based on higher costs compared to other shipping modes.

However, the value of air cargo accumulates for approximately 35% of the world’s trade because air transport is the fastest way of shipping items across long distances. Landlocked countries expecting shipments from overseas depend on airway transport.

Parcel value ranges from high-cost products like jewelry to lower-cost commodities like documents and other time-sensitive items. Cargo aircraft today have huge loading compartments, and they are a safe and time-saving way to transport freight from one part of the world to the other.

Maritime Transport

Waterborne shipping accounts for roughly 80% of international trade, which means that the majority of industries rely on it. Although considerably slower than airway transport, shipping items via maritime transport is substantially less expensive. Ships have more cargo space and can carry heavy loads. Parcel, LTL, and FTL are all available options because shipping containers are enormous.

If time is less of a factor, this is the optimal way of transporting goods to a country that has sea access. One ship can haul all sorts of goods and commodities in separate containers safely.

The modern docks are huge, but excellent coordination and systematization enable efficient management of cargo.

What To Consider When Selecting a Shipping Mode

Choosing the optimal among all shipping forms reduces costs and boosts company growth. Every business is unique, and a transport method that works for some companies, might not work for others.

Major shipping elements are:

  • Logistical reasoning and accessibility
  • Freight value and safety
  • Shipping specifics and durability
  • Time limitations

How important are these factors for a successful business?

Logistical Reasoning and Accessibility

Short-distance shipping is usually carried out via smaller vehicles like vans or trucks. Trucks, trains, and airplanes can be used for inland shipping, while boats and airplanes are valid shipping options across larger water bodies. In many cases, different forms of shipping are utilized to transport the cargo to the desired location. This is especially important for countries with no sea access.

Freight Value and Safety

Due to less traffic, shipping modes like railway, airway, and waterway transport are usually safer than hauling cargo on a truck. Delivering the goods intact is vital regardless of the transportation method and freight value. High-value commodities like jewelry, art, or high-end electronics require additional safety protocols to make sure that the shipment arrives unimpaired.

Cargo Specifics and Durability

If time is not a factor, and you need to ship huge and heavy freights, then railway or maritime transport might be your optimal shipping mode. However, if you are shipping perishable goods like food, make sure to pick the shipping form that ensures timely delivery. Packing is important for fragile items, and the person in charge of transportation should be notified to properly handle the cargo.

Time Limitations

Trucks and vans are the best options for short-distance shipping if your customers expect their orders to be delivered quickly. Airway transport is the fastest of all shipping modes when it comes to long-distance shipping. If you are in a time-crunching situation, these two forms of shipping are the top choices.

Container Types and Models

Containers are the essential component of transporting commodities for all forms of shipping. The design is affected by the kind of freight transportation vehicle, the type of items being shipped, and the purpose of the container. All of these factors contributed to the evolution and diversification of container types and models.

The trucking industry alone utilizes more than a dozen types of trailers to carry the cargo. The most commonly used trailers are dry van, standard flatbed, refrigerated, drop-deck/step-deck, open side/top, lowboy, RGN, and special purpose trailers. Any kind of liquid is transported in an ISO container.

Boxcars on trains keep the cargo safe from outside weather conditions. Trains use intermodal containers allowing the carrier to safely transfer the goods between different shipping forms. The need to use universal containers arose from the fact that trains can only travel on railroads. Once the train arrives at the destination, the container is picked up by another vehicle and carried to the desired address.

  • The freight shipped via air usually arrives and leaves the airport in intermodal containers, but it is loaded into an airplane in an aircraft container or pallets. The official name for airplane containers is a unit load device or ULD.

Dry storage containers are the most common container type when it comes to maritime transport, but other intermodal designs are used as well. Ship ports today feature a high level of organization, and it shouldn’t take too long for another vehicle to pick up the freight from the port.

The Possibilities Are Plenty

Now that we reviewed the common shipping forms and methods, you can make an informed business decision.

If you are still unsure what approach works for you, Unival Logistics is here to find the solution so you could minimize shipping costs and increase distribution efficiency. We offer full-value insurance for high-value cargo, real-time parcel tracking, and the guarantee that your items will arrive safely and on time.

Contact us to find out more about your shipping options.