LCL freight: what it is and how to choose the best provider?


LCL (Less than Container Load) freight is an intercontinental shipment where several smaller consignments coming from different suppliers are loaded into one container.

LCL shipping is often seen as an attractive option because, compared to sending each cargo separately, it may be more cost-effective and straightforward to book if you don’t have much experience shipping goods abroad. Simultaneously, you must deal with multiple suppliers instead of just one, so choosing the right service provider can be challenging.

Below are a few checkpoints that can help you choose the best provider for your next LCL shipment.

Compare prices

Find out what each company charges for LCL services, where they offer destinations, and how much you will pay for storage if your shipment is not collected on time.

Ask about documentation requirements for LCL shipping

There may be standard documents among all suppliers but still necessary to present when booking container transport or dealing with customs officials in the destination country. Make sure that courier agencies know the requirements too – you don’t want them demanding extra money because of missing papers.

Check infrastructure at the supplier’s disposal

They must have temperature-controlled warehouses to keep goods fresh during long overseas transportation and trucks and other equipment needed for efficient cargo handling. No matter how advanced their IT system is, your shipment will move much slower if they don’t have the infrastructure to handle it.

Ask about insurance policies

LCL shipping providers should guarantee that goods reach their destination undamaged. They may offer you Cargo Insurance for LCL Freight, which covers the value of your shipment if it gets lost or damaged. It’s not mandatory but highly recommended to ask what kind of cover your provider provides.

Two things could prevent a smooth ride with an LCL provider: insufficient packaging and ignorance of local rules and regulations. Make sure you choose a logistics company with experience handling perishables or other items that need special care during transportation.

Also, check out national laws on what you can bring into the country. LCL shipping could become a disaster if your goods end up stuck in customs because you failed to present the required documents.

What about additional services?

While it may not be mandatory, check whether an LCL freight company offers consolidation (cross-border distribution). Consolidation means that your shipment is processed by couriers based in different countries before reaching its final destination.

In some cases, consolidating your cargo can help reduce costs or faster delivery of individual consignments. For example, suppose one supplier has a warehouse on the west coast and another near the east coast of North America. In that case, they might choose to first deliver shipments from their U.S. warehouses together with your goods before sending them to Europe.

What about the big picture?

Even if you choose the perfect freight service, they can’t do much if your suppliers don’t cooperate in making sure your shipment reaches its destination on time.

Ensure that all LCL freight providers you consider provide flexible terms if one of your suppliers fails to deliver the cargo on time or in good condition. A reliable provider will work with their partners to solve unforeseen issues and not allow one supplier’s mistake to become an issue for their customers.

Get a contract

Always read a company’s Terms and Conditions carefully before settling on a deal. They may seem to have loads of small print initially, but most LCL companies will not sign a contract if you disagree with their Terms and Conditions.

In conclusion

If you only need to send one or two large items, air freight might be the cheapest option. But LCL freight may often be the way to go when you have multiple shipments of different sizes and shapes – which is typical for long-distance transport.

Just keep in mind that high-quality service does not come cheap, so find out who the leaders in your delivery market are before making up your mind. Remember to ask all the above questions about their services before signing on any dotted line—because once the deal’s done, it could become challenging, if not impossible, to change suppliers at short notice.