Thinking Outside the Box: LTL, Multiweight, Hundredweight, and Ground with Freight

Person in shadow pushing cart of shipping boxes

How do you decide which mode to use when tendering a shipment? We have all, at one point, found ourselves stuck in a rut. The transportation industry is no different. We routinely see shippers of all scopes and sizes still using the same shipping processes and services they have for decades.

Why? Because that’s what they’ve always done.

Change is tough, but as Henry Ford said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

With carriers trying to expand to new markets, cover increasing operational costs, and post higher profit margins to drive value for stockholders, shippers have been hit hard in the last several years. Carriers have implemented several additional fees and rate increases — such as oversize charges, extreme length charges, peak season surcharges, and 5% annual increases — that have increased the cost of shipping certain items considerably.

Considering your options to save more

Evaluating your current supply chain or just your transportation makeup can be an effective way to reduce costs, either by reducing the cost of shipping or reducing the labor costs involved.

The standard rule of thumb is that if your shipment is a total of 150 lbs or more, it goes via LTL. If it’s less, send it via parcel. However, it’s not that simple. Although this is a good rule in most cases, FedEx and UPS have designed programs that target LTL shipments between 150-750 lbs that are multi-carton shipments, going to the same location, and are shipped on the same day.

Billing parcel like LTL and vice versa

Multiweight, hundredweight, and ground with freight (GFP): Maybe you’ve heard these FedEx and UPS terms, which describe programs created to compete with smaller LTL shipments (typically less than 500-700 lbs), comprised of multiple boxes, fitting parcel parameters, transitioning to a billed per hundred-pound shipment cost.

There are clear benefits to these programs, including employee time savings (not having to build and shrinkwrap and/or strap a pallet), removal of pallet costs, better tracking, faster transit and delivery times, and no LTL accessorials or high fuel surcharges.

However, these are programs that are specifically designed to fit the parcel network and are not applicable to all multiple carton shipments.

Multiweight / Hundredweight:

Multiweight (FedEx) and hundredweight (UPS) are comparable services billing at a cost per hundred pounds for parcel carriers. When does it make sense to use these services?

For the sake of this illustration, we will look at multiweight in more detail. Per the FedEx Ground Multiweight guide for 2022:

“FedEx Ground Multiweight rates are available by contract only. Contact your FedEx account executive for more information. FedEx Ground® multiple-piece shipments may receive multiweight rates if the total shipment weighs 200 lbs. or more. A shipment average minimum package weight applies and varies by contract. Multiply the per-pound rate by total shipment weight and divide by 100.

Example:

  • 10 package shipment
  • 220 lbs
  • Distance: 250 miles (Zone 3)

With the FedEx Tier 3 pricing and a 25% discount on the service your charges would be as follows:

  • $56.65 * (220 / 100) = $124.63
  • $124.63 – 25% = $93.47
  • $93.47 + 12.75% fuel surcharge = $105.39

In the above example, your total cost would be $105.39 for a 220 lb shipment going to a location in Zone 3. (Note: In our original post from June 3, 2019, which we updated in February 2022, this cost was just $76.88!)

Maybe you have a good regional LTL carrier that can provide minimums this low, but the benefit of shipping via multiweight is that the shipment incurs no LTL accessorials and ground tariff fuel surcharge. Inside delivery, liftgate, limited access, detention, and re-delivery fees are all common charges added to LTL invoices. These charges don’t exist in the parcel world, which mitigates risk, allowing you to better anticipate and price products and services to maintain effective costing.

Multiweight shipping pros and cons

Pros:

  • Quicker delivery times
  • Reduced accessorial fees vs. LTL
  • Automation
  • Discountable service
  • More predictable costing
  • Carrier will bill the lesser cost of ground vs multiweight / hundredweight

Cons:

  • Dimensional weight
  • Minimum total shipment weight of 200 lbs
  • Minimum per package weight average of 20 lbs
  • Doesn’t fit all businesses

The alternative: Ground with Freight Pricing

Maybe UPS Ground with Freight Pricing (GFP) is a better solution for your freight. UPS provides this service for multi-piece parcel shipments utilizing LTL rates and discounts, but ground tariff rules and additional charges apply. UPS says it can be an “economical choice for multiple-package shipments weighing more than 150 pounds” with “guaranteed on-time performance and competitive trnasit time.”

Let’s look at an example.

  • 8 packages
  • 220 lbs
  • Class 60
  • Atlanta to Nashville
  • $54 minimum shipment charge
  • LTL rate example: $550 List Rate

In this example we will apply an 85% discount to list rate for LTL costs:

$550 – 85% = $82.50 + 8% ground fuel = $89.10

Per package minimum cost does not apply

*A UPS Zone 2, 1 lb package has a minimum cost of $9.90

GFP pros and cons

Pros:

  • Utilizes the same rate and discount structure as LTL for easy comparison
  • Low minimums available
  • Surcharges replace high-cost LTL accessorials
  • Faster transit times
  • Predictable shipping costs

Cons:

  • Ground per package minimum applies
  • High package count shipments can result in increased charges if weights, distances, or charges are low
  • NMFC Class codes can increase charges significantly
  • User must manually select GFP when selecting service or it will be billed as a ground/hundredweight shipment which could negate savings

The takeaway: Think outside the box

Henry Ford, known for being the father of the automotive industry, was forced to change his way of thinking after bankrupting multiple automotive companies. By partnering with the right people and changing his processes, he was able to create what we have today, the Ford Motor Company — and more importantly, the assembly line.

The services discussed in this article are specialized and will not reduce costs for all shippers. Undertaking a project to implement new shipping services and successfully optimize mode selection is very specific and takes expert knowledge and technology to be foolproof and successful.

Think outside the box. Consult a professional who can evaluate your current supply chain and shipping processes. You may be surprised to find significant opportunities where you previously thought that margins were already as tight as they could be.