Less Than Container Load (LCL) vs Full Container Load (FCL)

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When shipping by container freight, the size of your cargo matters most. The number of pallets you’re transporting will determine whether you qualify for full container load shipping. You’ll have to go with less than container load freight shipping if you don't. But what is the difference? FCL and LCL have different requirements and, more importantly, come with different price tags. Let’s delve deeper into the issue and find out which option fits your needs best.

Full Container Load Shipping

As the name implies, FCL freight shipping requires that your cargo fill up an entire container. This freight shipping method is usually the most cost-effective since the carrier doesn’t need to combine your shipment with other customers to fill the container. Therefore, FCL freight is usually the cheapest option, provided you have a lot of goods to transport.

When shipping FCL, bear in mind that there are different container sizes. In that sense, filling a 20-foot container is much easier than filling a 40-foot one. Naturally, the maximum weight allowances differ for each container size.

Less Than Container Load Shipping

LCL freight shipping is the more popular of the two container freight options. That’s because you don’t have to worry about filling up an entire container. Instead, you can ship what you need, and the carrier will figure out the rest.

Less than container load freight is usually less cost-effective than its FCL counterpart. However, carriers somewhat mitigate costs by combining different shipments inside the same container. That way, everyone gets postage rates that are closer to FCL shipping.

Delivery Times

Maritime container freight shipping is the most practical way to transport heavy cargo. However, that doesn’t mean it’s fast. Container freight involves a lot of work - your package needs to reach an industrial port before being loaded on a cargo ship. After that, the carrier must do the same thing repeatedly before reaching the final destination. These things take time, so expect a transport time of a couple of weeks. Sometimes it can be even longer, like with international container shipping

LCL shipping tends to be slightly quicker than FCL because the smaller shipments are easier to transport on land. Remember - your cargo must be transported to a port and then from another port to its destination. Lighter loads require less planning, meaning your LCL shipment will likely arrive sooner. 

If you’re looking for the fastest option, air freight usually takes the crown. It can ship in days instead of weeks with maritime shipping. However, a plane cannot carry nearly as heavy a load as a cargo ship. Therefore, ocean freight is often the only choice for shipping heavy loads. In such cases, it is the fastest option by default.

FCL vs. LCL - Which Is Right for You?

To decide between full and less than container load freight, you first need to know what you are shipping. That means knowing the exact dimensions of your shipment: height, width, length, weight, and, if applicable, the number of pallets. Once you know the relevant information, you can compare it to the inside of a shipping container. That way, you’ll see whether you can fill a container or not. 

If that sounds like too much work, you’re in luck. Today, a suitable container shipping calculator will quickly show you what type of container freight you need. By entering your cargo’s details into a calculator, you won’t have to compare numbers before deciding. Instead, the calculator will do everything for you, even going so far as to suggest the size of the container you should order. A shipping calculator will provide the best answer if you can’t decide between FCL and LCL.

Conclusion

Container shipping is the most cost-effective form of freight shipping on the market. When it comes to bulky cargo, it can even be the only option. However, while it’s generally a straightforward choice, it does have its nuances.

FCL and LCL freight are the most common container shipping options. Choosing between the two can be difficult, as it involves knowing your cargo in detail. A container shipping calculator can help with that, as it can easily calculate which option will give you the best rates.

Container shipping is far from quick, but it’s the only option for certain types of cargo. A shipping container has a huge capacity, and the weight a cargo ship can bear is practically unlimited. Therefore, your only job is to decide whether you want to fill an entire container or go with LCL shipping. Each comes with its own set of benefits, so choose wisely. 

 
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