Its a natural reaction:  if the freight is on a pallet, ship it on a less-than-truckload carrier.  If the shipment is heavy, use LTL over small package. 


But is LTL freight the most cost effective means of transport?  And how do your customers feel about receiving LTL freight?


Many businesses particularly smaller offices dont have the luxury of a loading dock, and receiving a pallet of freight can seem overwhelming at times.


These same customers receive shipments from FedEx, UPS and DHL routinely.  And the US Postal Service visits these customers every day.  The drivers become well known, and they are welcomed into the office without an appointment, much less a certificate of insurance.


When examining your small parcel shipments, look at your LTL invoices.  Do you have a lot of minimum charge LTL shipments?  These may be less expensive on a small package carrier.  In addition, you may avoid costly LTL fuel surcharges and accessorials such as liftgate fees or limited access delivery charges.


Consider a customer order that weighs 130 lbs total going from Memphis, TN to New York, NY.  Two boxes are 30 lbs each, one box is 20 lbs, and five boxes are 10 lbs each.  Your distribution center may be tempted to place these boxes on a pallet and ship them on a national LTL carrier.


But does that make sense?


Lets look at the rates.

UPS Ground Tariff Rates *

Quantity of Packages

Weight per Package

UPS Ground Tariff, including Fuel Surcharge

Extended Cost


30 lbs




20 lbs




10 lbs



Total charges




National LTL Carrier *

130 lbs freight rated at class 85


50% discount


Fuel surcharges


Total charges




Even if you end up paying many unexpected accessorial charges on UPS, and even factoring in a bigger discount with your LTL carrier, its likely that its still cheaper to ship these packages on UPS.


Aside from financial benefits, your company may see a reduced number of damaged shipments.  LTL carriers often re-work small pallets of freight to maximize trailer utilization.  Your shipment may be crammed into the top of a trailer, sitting askew.


So dont be fooled by the pallet!  Take a look at your LTL invoices, particularly the minimum charge bills, and rerate them on your preferred small package carrier.  Dont forget to ask your small package carrier account manager about hundredweight pricing for heavier shipments comprised of multiple lightweight boxes.  You may be surprised to see the potential savings in store.




 * Rate Quotes:

Based on quote from, 5/24/07.

Based on quotes from on 5/24/07.