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What is parcel shipping?

Parcel shipping is a convenient, flexible, and cost-effective method of transporting goods. It involves sending small packages, often from one business to another, or from a business to its customers. From sending documents to moving merchandise, parcel shipping plays a pivotal role in maintaining the rhythm of everyday commerce.

Types of parcel shipping services

Parcel shipping services can be broadly divided into two categories – domestic and international. These services cater to different shipment needs, providing reliable delivery options for both businesses and individuals.

Domestic parcel shipping

Domestic parcel shipping services specialize in transporting packages within the boundaries of a single country. These services are particularly beneficial for small businesses that need a consistent and reliable method of delivering goods to their customers locally. Examples of popular domestic parcel shipping companies in the U.S. include USPS, FedEx, and UPS. In addition, carriers such as OnTrac, TForce, LSO, GLS, UDS, CDL, AxleHire, and Veho are popular regional options. These companies offer various service levels, from same-day delivery to standard ground shipping that may take several days.

International parcel shipping

International parcel shipping, on the other hand, extends the service beyond national boundaries. These services are crucial for companies engaging in global trade. DHL, FedEx International, and UPS Worldwide are well-established providers in this realm, facilitating timely delivery of goods across different continents and customs jurisdictions.

What qualifies as a parcel?

Defining a parcel isn’t just about its size or weight, although these factors significantly influence the choice of shipping method.

  • Weight: The weight of a parcel is a significant factor in qualifying for parcel shipping. Most parcel carriers have a weight limit for their services, which is commonly up to 150 pounds. If a package exceeds this weight, it generally falls into a different shipping category such as LTL (Less Than Truckload) or FTL (Full Truckload) shipping.
  • Size: Size is another key element. Parcel shipments usually have maximum dimensions that they must fall within. For example, many carriers define a parcel as a package whose length plus girth (distance around the package) does not exceed 165 inches.
  • Packaging: Parcels are typically individually packaged in boxes or envelopes, which protect the contents during transportation. The packaging also often includes information such as the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, and it might carry barcodes for tracking purposes.
  • Delivery method: Parcels can be delivered via various methods, including ground (truck), air, and sometimes sea. The delivery method will depend on the distance, cost, and speed required for the shipment.
  • Destination: Both domestic and international destinations qualify for parcel shipping. However, international shipping often involves additional considerations, such as customs documentation and additional fees or taxes.
  • Handling: Parcel shipping usually involves door-to-door service, with the package being picked up from the sender’s location and delivered directly to the recipient. This also includes the use of drop-off points, collection services, and mailbox locations.
  • Shipping speed: Parcel shipping offers a range of delivery speeds, from express services (such as overnight or same-day delivery) to standard services, which may take several days. The shipping speed is often a determining factor in the cost of parcel shipping.
  • Tracking: Most parcel shipping services offer tracking capabilities, allowing both the sender and the recipient to monitor the progress of the shipment from pickup to delivery.

By understanding these qualifications, you can make more informed decisions about whether parcel shipping is the right choice for your shipping needs.

Parcel vs LTL shipping

Understanding the difference between parcel shipping and Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping is key to choosing the right option for your shipment. Parcel shipping typically caters to smaller, lighter packages, while LTL shipping is designed for larger, heavier shipments that don’t fill an entire truck.

LTL shipping offers the advantage of sharing transportation costs with other shippers, as your freight only occupies a portion of the truck’s space. However, LTL shipments may undergo multiple transfers during transit, which can lead to increased risk of damage. Parcel shipping, conversely, generally offers a more straightforward route from sender to receiver, reducing the risk of package mishandling.

Top 10 benefits of parcel shipping

Parcel shipping offers several advantages.

  1. Convenience: Parcel shipping services usually offer door-to-door delivery. This means you can have your packages picked up from your location and delivered straight to the recipient. This eliminates the need for dropping off or collecting packages from a depot or warehouse.
  2. Flexibility: Parcel shipping services offer a variety of options to cater to different needs. You can choose between ground, air, or sea shipping, express or economy delivery, and even add extra services such as insurance or signature on delivery.
  3. Trackability: Most parcel shipping services provide tracking numbers for shipments. This allows both senders and recipients to monitor the progress of the delivery, providing visibility and peace of mind.
  4. Cost-effective: Parcel shipping is typically more affordable for small packages, especially for domestic deliveries. Prices are usually based on the weight and size of the parcel, as well as the distance it needs to travel. Also, you can reduce fuel costs by shipping parcel to LTL.
  5. Speed: Depending on the service level chosen, parcel shipping can be quite fast. Same-day, overnight, and express options are often available.
  6. Access to remote locations: Parcel carriers often have extensive networks that reach even remote or rural locations. This is particularly beneficial for businesses that want to reach a wide customer base.
  7. Global reach: With international parcel shipping services, you can send packages virtually anywhere in the world. This opens up global markets to businesses of all sizes.
  8. Customer satisfaction: Reliable and timely delivery of goods directly affects customer satisfaction. With parcel shipping, businesses can ensure their products reach customers in a safe and timely manner, contributing to positive customer experiences.
  9. Eco-friendly options: As sustainability becomes increasingly important, many parcel shipping companies are offering eco-friendly options, such as carbon-neutral shipping, to cater to environmentally conscious consumers and businesses.
  10. Security: Parcel shipping often includes options for insurance and secure delivery methods, such as requiring a signature upon delivery. This provides an additional level of security for valuable or sensitive shipments.

Challenges of Parcel Shipping

Despite its many advantages, parcel shipping is not without challenges.

  1. Risk of damage or Loss: During the process of parcel shipping, there’s always a risk of packages getting damaged or lost, especially if they’re not properly packed or handled. This risk can be mitigated with appropriate packaging, insurance, and by choosing reliable shipping services.
  2. Customs regulations: For international parcel shipping, complying with customs regulations can be a complex task. Each country has its own rules and regulations regarding imports and exports, which can lead to delays or additional costs if not properly addressed.
  3. Delivery delays: Despite estimated delivery times, unforeseen issues like weather conditions, technical glitches, or customs delays can cause parcels to arrive later than expected.
  4. Cost: While parcel shipping is generally cost-effective for smaller items, it can become expensive for heavier or larger items, particularly for long-distance or international shipping.
  5. Remote destinations: Shipping to remote or hard-to-reach destinations can be more challenging and costly. While most parcel carriers have extensive networks, certain locations may still be difficult to service.
  6. Limited size and weight: Parcel shipping usually has restrictions on the weight and dimensions of packages. Anything beyond these limits would typically need to be shipped via freight, which can be more complex and costly.
  7. Tracking accuracy: While most parcel services offer tracking, the accuracy and real-time updates can sometimes be lacking. This can lead to uncertainty about the exact location or delivery time of a parcel.
  8. Return and redelivery hassles: If the recipient is not available to receive the delivery, it can result in the need for redelivery or return, which can be inconvenient and time-consuming.

Final thoughts

Parcel shipping is an essential service that fuels both local and global commerce. It offers an array of benefits, such as convenience, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility, which make it an excellent choice for businesses and individuals alike. While it comes with its set of challenges, understanding how to effectively navigate these challenges can ensure a positive shipping experience.

Technology like parcel transportation management systems (PTMS) with solutions like multi-carrier selection, label printing, real-time tracking, and intelligent reporting enable companies to scale operations and keep happy customers — despite whatever disruption lies ahead.

Whether you’re a small business owner looking to streamline your domestic deliveries, or a company seeking to expand internationally, choosing the right parcel shipping service is key. By considering factors like parcel size, weight, destination, and shipping method, you can find a service that meets your specific needs and budget.

Remember, it’s not just about sending a package from point A to point B. It’s about the entire journey – how the parcel is handled, the speed of delivery, and ultimately, the satisfaction of your customers. So, take the time to understand your parcel shipping options, and make an informed choice. Your business – and your customers – will thank you.

To learn more about parcel shipping solutions, connect with an expert.