LCL Freight

How UPS is revolutionizing an ancient Far East trade route


New multimodal LCL freight option from China to Europe balances speed with cost.

When Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with members of the foreign press to promote the country's new "Silk Road" this past March, the announcement marked a pivotal point in the country's efforts to innovate the old trade route with flexible, cost-effective transportation options. So when UPS recently expanded its UPS Preferred™ multimodal freight portfolio to include less-than-container-load (LCL) rail service in addition to full-container-load (FCL) from China to Europe, the Silk Road's evolution became even more attractive to UPS customers.

Customers using UPS Preferred FCL rail service saved 65 percent, on average, on costs vs. air freight movements between China and Europe, and gained a 40 percent improvement in transit times compared with traditional ocean freight.

"China's manufacturing transformation, which UPS refers to as 'Made in China 2.0,' is driving our customers' need for multimodal transportation options," says Jeff McCorstin, president, UPS Global Freight Forwarding, Asia Pacific. "UPS Preferred LCL rail service will help our customers manage costs and optimize time-in-transit needs."

The new rail offerings are geared toward finding the most flexible path to reducing air freight costs or increasing the slow speeds typical of ocean freight. Customers using UPS Preferred FCL rail service, which launched last year, saved 65 percent, on average, on costs vs. air freight movements between China and Europe, and gained a 40 percent improvement in transit times compared with traditional ocean freight. 

Despite crossing multiple national borders across 5,000+ miles from China to Europe, customs clearance is only required at origin and the final destination, eliminating some of the clearance hassles associated with intercontinental transport. Customs documentation is completed at shipment origins in Chengdu or Zhengzhou, China, and with final clearance at the rail termination point in Lodz, Poland, or Hamburg, Germany. Once the shipments arrive in Europe via train, UPS uses its transportation network for final delivery. 

"Our UPS Preferred LCL service gives our customers in China and abroad more transportation options to deliver on growing demand on one of the world's largest and busiest trade lanes," says Steve Flowers, president of UPS global freight forwarding services. "Companies don't have to choose between speed and cost, but can realize both."

With the weekly, door-to-door LCL service offering, customers in manufacturing and retail can take advantage of high-tech UPS tracking and GPS technology. To ensure the shipment's security, special metal bars are used to prevent unauthorized doors from opening, and train wagon transitions due to differing country-specific rail gauges are monitored by closed-circuit television. To combat harsh winter conditions in this part of the world, diesel-powered temperature-controlled containers are available for active temperature control, and thermal liners and pallet covers can aid in passive temperature protection.

Unlike standard ocean LCL service that is priced based on size or cubic meters, the Preferred LCL rail service is priced per kilo, similar to air freight. Contact your UPS account manager for details on the UPS Preferred multimodal freight portfolio.

To read more about the new Silk Road, click here


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