What Is Shipping Consolidation?

Published on
May 25, 2023
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Many shippers face the challenge of not having enough cargo to fill an entire truck. Unless you have a highly specialized (and likely costly) carrier, you're often shipping and paying for empty space.Shipping consolidation, a solution that combines smaller shipments to fill trucks, can address this problem. In this blog, we'll delve into the workings of shipping consolidation — including its benefits and challenges.

How does shipping consolidation work?

Shipping consolidation, also known as partial truckload (PTL), merges multiple shipments into one full truckload. Typically, freight is collected and transported to a consolidation warehouse situated centrally to each shipment’s final destination. Here, the freight is unloaded, sorted, and dispatched for final delivery.Partial truckload shipping caters to shipments that don't fill a truck but are too big for less than truckload (LTL). Partial shipments usually consist of 5-22 pallets and weigh between 5,000 and 40,000 pounds. While PTL is the traditional shipping consolidation service, a newer mode of consolidation has entered the playing field: shared truckload (STL). Shared truckload shipping is a shipping consolidation mode that enables several shippers to share trailer space in one multi-stop full truckload. With STL, shipments traveling on similar routes move on the same truck. STL freight travels directly from its pickup location to its destination — without passing through hubs or terminals — and isn’t handled during transit, unlike PTL.

4 steps involved in traditional shipping consolidation

Once you’ve determined shipping consolidation is right for your company, follow these four steps to ensure you maximize the value of consolidation in shipping:

1. Plan

Your shipment volume will determine if it's suited for shipping consolidation. If your shipment is 5-22 pallets and weights between 5,000 and 40,000 pounds, shipping consolidation is a great option. Once decided, you need to choose the right shipping consolidation option (PTL, STL, etc.).

2. Prepare

Prepare your shipment with appropriate packaging to minimize damage risk. Label your cargo clearly for easy identification and delivery. Ensure all necessary documents, like invoices, bill of lading (BOL), and insurance and inspection certificates, are ready.

3. Execute

Book your transportation through a freight broker, a transportation management system like Flock, or by posting to a load board. Then load your freight.

4. Track and monitor

Track your freight all the way to its destination. Most carriers provide real-time tracking to keep stakeholders and customers informed.

Benefits of traditional shipping consolidation

Traditional consolidated shipping, or PTL, is gaining popularity for its many benefits. PTL is cheaper than FTL, faster than LTL, doesn’t require freight class, and allows for flexible inventory management. Here's how:

Cost savings

Shipping consolidation helps cut shipping, storage, and handling costs. You only pay for the space you need and share the shipping costs with other companies.Consolidation enables you to ship your freight as soon as it's ready, eliminating unnecessary warehouse space costs.

Flexible inventory management

By storing freight at a consolidation facility, products can be ready to send out immediately based on changing consumer demands and order changes. Consolidated shipping enables swift delivery, even on tight turnaround.

No freight class requirements

Consolidated shipments don’t require freight class and are priced based on the total amount of trailer space needed. This means you experience no risk of incurring reclassing fees and are guaranteed to pay only for the price of the space you need.

Challenges of traditional shipping consolidation

Despite its advantages, shipping consolidation may not be ideal for all shippers due to challenges like capacity constraints, inventory management, and communication and coordination. We’ll detail each of these challenges along with a potential solution.

Capacity constraints

Not all carriers are willing to carry consolidated freight due to its complexity, reducing available space for consolidated shipments. Solution: Partner with a reliable logistics provider who can connect you to vetted carriers hauling STL, which efficiently finds space on empty trucks that matches your needs.

Inventory management

Since you are sending out multiple shipments, it can be difficult to keep track of your inventory. Properly managing your inventory ensures you don’t over or under stock your shelves and that you can meet shifting customer demands. Solution: Advanced logistics technology can help streamline your process for tracking and managing your inventory. It gives you a transparent view of where your freight is and reduces delays in getting to the end customer.

Communication and coordination

Coordinating multiple shipments, and with multiple shippers, can be a daunting task. Poor communication and coordination can result in delays, extra costs, and dissatisfied customers. Solution: Choose a dedicated and responsive consolidation team, like Flock, for your freight. Using our patented tech with a network of vetted carriers ensures all parties are aligned and expectations are set.

Streamline your freight operations with shared truckload

Shipping consolidation can be a cost-saving solution when you can’t fill an entire truck. By combining your freight with other shipments, you’ll experience improved efficiency while also reducing your environmental impact. While there are numerous shipping consolidation services, tech-driven solutions like Flock Freight innovate to make the supply chain more efficient and sustainable. Flock’s shared truckloads offer the benefits of shipping consolidation while also cutting costs up to 20% compared to truckload, shipping 99.8% damage-free, delivering on-time 30% more often than LTL, and reducing CO2 emissions by up to 40%. Book a demo to discover how you can save more by shipping STL with Flock.