We cover some deep topics on our Blog – from Startup Shipping to Inbound Logistics Revenue. All too often, however, it’s easy to gloss over some of the more basic concepts that can confuse casual shippers. Today I’m going to address a very common question: What’s the difference between freight and small parcel (also phrased as “What is Freight?” since most of us are familiar with small parcel)?
When it comes to shipping there are two different types of transportation options: freight and small parcel. Both are commonly used and serve different purposes for companies.
What is Small Parcel Shipping?
Small parcel shipping is used when a company is sending out (wait for it) smaller packages and is often looking for a solution that is repeatable and easy to manage. Other characteristics include:
- The package being shipped is smaller in dimensions (generally something you can pick up easily)
- It typically weighs under 150 pounds
- It’s most often managed through a major carrier like FedEx, UPS, or the Post office (USPS)
Small parcel shipping is used in a ton of different situations, but a common example is by businesses who are shipping a final product to their customer. For instance, a company that makes t-shirts may receive an order for 1 shirt via their website. They will then pull that shirt from their inventory, put it into a box, and ship it directly to their customer via USPS. This is a small parcel shipment. Similarly, when you ship your mom her birthday gift by going to the UPS Store, this is also a small parcel shipment.
What is Freight Shipping?
Freight is a term that indicates larger shipments that require much more management, and oftentimes complexity, in the shipment process. Freight shipping has a ton of different terms (too many for this blog), but the main point to take away is that the sizes and quantities are too big to simply throw into the back of a UPS truck and send to your destination. Other characteristics include:
- Freight usually involves dealing with multiple quantities of smaller packages, or shipping smaller quantities of huge items
- Freight is often packaged in pallets or containers, versus a single box
- When you hear terms such as FTL, LTL, LCL, or CL, then you are most likely dealing with freight, rather than small parcel
Arranging and managing freight shipments are much more complex than a small parcel shipment. Oftentimes a freight shipment requires obtaining a quote for a shipment based on the sizes/weights of your shipment, and determining the most effective mode (e.g. Air, Ocean, and/or Trucking). Freight shipping arrangements are often made by a freight forwarder on behalf of a customer.
In conclusion, freight is generally reserved for large shipments and requires more complexity to manage, and small parcel shipments are your ordinary run of the mill package shipments. In most cases, it’s not an “or” situation – whether something is Freight or Small Parcel is determined by its size/quantity/weight. Most Small Parcel carriers (like UPS), will have clear restrictions on when something is too big.
Finally, your company should have a plan (and hopefully technology) in place to manage both Small Parcel and Freight shipments. Whether you’re an ecommerce store or a financial services business, at some point you will have both, and there is nothing worse than scrambling to find a way to manage shipments when something is urgent.