Too many carriers, too many choices

What to look for when selecting the right carrier

It’s difficult to believe that choosing between just three carriers could create so much confusion. As shipping costs continue to escalate and requirements change, it is a constant challenge to nail down the best price and services. With the USPS, FedEx and UPS all competing based on access and convenience, as well as reliable delivery and accurate tracking, cost comparisons become complicated.

Separate web sites for each of the three major carriers add to the confusion. You may need to go to two or three different shipping sites to compare service, preparation, sending and tracking options. What do you really need for each shipment and how can you find it? Until now, there has been no all-in-one online site where you can do it all.

Starting with the basics

You know you want to look out for the big four: convenience, delivery reliability, tracking and costs. Each of these four basic categories comes with a subset of additional services and hidden factors that may muddle the picture. Take tracking, for example.

“We check in on tracking across the different carriers web sites hourly,” one harried shipper confided. That’s a lot of time that could be more productively spent elsewhere in your organization. And tracking may involve something called parcel select, a service in which FedEx and UPS may pick up and transport your parcel, but pass it on to the USPS to deliver in what is called the last mile. Not only does the last mile affect the tracking process, but it can also be the most costly part of the delivery. UPS and FedEx will pass on the fuel and other accessorial charges to you, and you may not even be aware of the hand-off. As a result of add-ons like this, senders often just silently admit defeat and make the final selection based simply on convenience, preference or the relationship they have with a particular carrier.

Finding the best rates — another basic — can also turn into a can of spaghetti. Shipping costs have continued to rise across all three carriers: recent increases at the USPS averaged approximately 9.5 percent, and increases at FedEx and UPS were approximately 5 percent each. And because carrier rates are an essential part of the final choice, yet are based on different and constantly changing requirements, it is extremely challenging to calculate the best price up front, a factor you definitely need to look out for.

Dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s

Even when you’ve negotiated favorably with a preferred carrier, parameters keep shifting based on regulations, dimensions, weights, handling needs, insurance and delivery destinations. And these are just the tip of the office shipping iceberg. The quest for precision and accuracy becomes a slippery slope. Just when you think you’ve got it nailed down, another factor can rear its costly head (such as the last mile), and it may have more to do with extra fees, not up-front, transparent rates.

For example, dimensional rating, a new billing technique implemented by UPS and FedEx in 2015, takes into account the length, width and height of a package when calculating final charges. If you make a mistake, it will cost you.

Another potential “gotcha” is an unverified address. If the carrier must correct an invalid address, it can cost $13 or more per package. These extra charges come after you ship and you often don’t know about them until you receive the monthly bill. These are just two examples of potential additional fees that require extra care in choosing your carrier.

What’s a shipper to do?

You can either continue to do business as usual, possibly incurring costly mistakes, or you can hide your head in the sand and hope it will all go away, or you can take a look at SendPro®. The all-in-one, online shipping solution from Pitney Bowes simplifies and streamlines shipping through the USPS, FedEx and UPS, enabling you to use just one login, one shipping form and one address book for the multiple carriers. With SendPro, you can weigh packages, quickly compare rates, print multi-carrier shipping labels, access centralized tracking, and manage expenses.

The solution, which can be custom-tailored to your organization’s needs, is scalable and can handle shipping from a single sender’s desktop or a central mail area, permitting one or multiple user access across the office.

Learn about how SendPro® can make it easier to print labels, ship, and track online.

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