Transport Management

Your Guide to Multi-Carrier Shipping  

by Simon Unicomb, 30 March 2022

What do you do when you need a new shirt? 

Some people might go straight for a brand they already like - maybe they’ve bought shirts there before, or even a pair of jeans. Maybe they buy all of their clothes from that one store, but  when the majority of us shop for clothing, we usually buy from a variety of different stores. Perhaps we prefer to buy shirts from Kmart, but H&M has a better selection of sweaters. 

All in all, we mostly recognise that when we stick to a single provider, we can be losing out on a better quality product or a better deal. Many believe that the same is true for shipping: by limiting ourselves to a single carrier, we may be cutting ourselves off from options that would suit us better.

In action, this principle of ‘shopping around’ is called multi-carrier shipping, and we use it to get better service depending on our specific shipping needs. Today, we’re taking you through everything you need to know about multi-carrier shipping: what it is, the pros and cons, and how it differs from other methods.  

What is Multi-Carrier Shipping? 

Multi-carrier shipping is the opposite of single carrier shipping - which is where you rely on a single carrier / freight division to fulfil all of your shipping needs. You may also have heard it called ‘Aggregate shipping’.  In a multi carrier solution, software compares a range of different carriers’ quotes and benefits in order to find the best fit for your particular shipment. This same software usually tracks the freight proceedings. 

How is it Different From Other Methods?

Single carrier shipping relies either on the use of  a business’ personal fleet or a private agreement with a single carrier, whereas multi-carrier shipping uses a web of carriers to fulfil a business’ shipping needs. 

Very big companies with fleets large enough to sustain their operations, and small companies without the demand to sustain a multi carrier solution will likely be satisfied with a single carrier solution, but multi-carrier shipping offers a range of benefits to those in between: who require a degree flexibility in their services that a single carrier simply cannot provide. 

The Benefits of Multi-Carrier Shipping

Multi-carrier shipping can be an excellent way for businesses to improve efficiency and minimise risk across their operations. We’ve listed out some of the main advantages of this method below: 

  • Optimisation of Service Type 

No carrier service can realistically be big enough to support the full range of shipping options you may want or need access to, such as next day delivery, delivery to remote locations, shipping, trucking, and many more services. For businesses that ship a variety of different products or to a variety of locations, the ability to shop around for the right carrier can prove very valuable: allowing you to both weigh up the expertise provided by the carrier and their quote against competitors to find the right fit. Therefore, multi-carrier shipping gives you the choice to entrust a specialised carrier with the job that you need done - allowing for both more flexibility and ability to meet the demands of customers. 

  • Less risk of disruption 

A single carrier option can effectively place all your eggs in a single basket, meaning that when your sole carrier faces delays, disruptions, or any of the common nuisances that plague the transportation industry - the entirety of your operations will be impacted. In a multi carrier system, the risk is minimised and remains local to only one aspect of operations and can be negated through proactive rerouting. This allows for better and more agile performance across your business. 

  • More control  

We know that every time an order is placed, our reputation is on the line with that customer - and it’s up to us to fulfil their expectations and provide great service. Multi-carrier shipping allows for much more control over the service that we provide, as we are able to exercise more choice in which carrier we choose for which operation. 

  • Data consolidation 

Multi-carrier shipping requires sophisticated software to pull off - and this software also collects data which can be useful for future analysis. This data allows businesses to understand the strengths and weaknesses both within their own processes and the particular carriers they choose, allowing them to fine tune their operations and gain efficiency over time. 

Disadvantages of Multi-Carrier Shipping

Going for a multi carrier solution also isn’t going to be perfect for every business’ needs. Below are a few of the reasons that may lead you to look into other methods: 

  • Greater logistical demands 

Coordinating between multiple carriers, even with helpful software to aid in the process, does introduce new logistical demands and challenges for businesses. For those with small teams already stretched thin, it may not be the time to make the switch. 

  • Price 

For smaller businesses, multi-carrier shipping can be a less cost effective choice. Multi-carrier shipping requires specific software to be done well and, depending on the provider, this can pose a barrier for entry to some businesses. Additionally, small businesses often benefit from discounts given by individual providers in exchange for an exclusive relationship - which can widen profit margins considerably. 

  • Not right for every business 

As much as multi-carrier shipping can open up new opportunities and allow for increased efficiency, no system will be the right choice for every business. For instance, businesses with very localised shipping needs, infrequent orders, or needs that generally rely on one system  or method of transportation may be entirely satisfied with a single carrier solution which offers the specific service they require. 

The Right Solution For You?

Although it’s not perfect for everyone, we think that multi-carrier shipping is a great choice for many businesses who want to improve their efficiency and reliability. If you have more questions about multi-carrier shipping, or any aspect of the shipping process, get in touch with us at TransVirtual today.

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