Understanding groupage: the economical and efficient shipping method

International trade can be expensive for importers and exporters, and many companies are looking for extra savings right now, especially since Brexit, the pandemic and high energy costs. With a range of freight rates and shipping methods available, one option stands out as offering highly effective and cost-effective transport: groupage.

What is groupage freight? Logistics terms and definitions

IFL and sister company RGF trucks docked at the warehouse.

Groupage refers to a service offered by freight forwarders that consolidates your goods into the same load with others going to the same or similar destination. Multiple consignments are then sent on scheduled services to/from different countries via road freight and shipping.

Consolidation of consignments in this way can provide a cheaper transport option. Trailers leave frequently to most major European hubs so you won’t have to wait long. It can also be a greener option as it helps fill up a truck or container load, making freight transport more efficient and avoiding wasted space in the international carrying unit.

The groupage process: from warehouse to destination

To understand how groupage works in practice, let’s take our Swiss import/export service as an example.

Glob-Sped-AG truck and trailer

A Liverpool-based export business on a tight budget wants to ship a small consignment of consumer goods to Zurich.

  • We collect their pallet freight through our UK pallet network using either a 48-hour economy service or next-working day express.
  • The shipment is then unloaded at our Midlands warehouse, grouped with others going to Switzerland and goods dispatched on our next available scheduled service.
  • On arrival at our Swiss transport hub, the goods are then loaded onto a road freight service with our Swiss transport partner (Glob-Sped AG, pictured) for onward domestic delivery.
  • This process works in reverse for import freight to the UK, and we offer 24/7 customs clearance services through our Birmingham customs team or Dover agent.

When is groupage shipping convenient?

Groupage transport best suits small shipments, or shipments with flexible delivery dates and times.

Advantages of groupage shipping

Groupage warehouse worker

The many advantages of using groupage services include:

  • Cost-effectiveness – a single, more cost-effective shipment reduces overall shipping costs
  • Efficiency – fills empty space in trucks and cargo containers
  • Flexibility – can tie into other freight forwarding services, from warehouse storage to sea freight and air cargo
  • Predictable delivery times – you can still schedule delivery for a specific date and time
  • Frequency – scheduled groupage services leave daily from the UK to Europe
  • Tracked – tracking and electronic proof of delivery (PODs) give you visibility on your goods.

Exploring groupage transport solutions

Your choice of shipping method depends on a few factors: budget, timings, and the size, weight and collection / delivery address of your goods. If groupage is your best option, we’ll take care of your groupage shipments, retaining control of the entire delivery process and ensuring your goods are in safe hands.

For import-export groupage to/from different destinations, you may also need a transport solution that includes customs clearance, warehousing storage, container unloading, supply chain support or third-party logistics (3PL). It’s best to get in touch to talk through these service options with a member of our team.

Distinguishing groupage from other shipping methods

Glossary of shipping terms – showing dockyard, shipping, containers (groupage) and air freight.

Groupage is the combination of less than full load consignments in the same international carrying unit, with the domestic collection and delivery usually performed by a separate locally based vehicle. Generally, groupage denotes international transport and involves your cargo being transhipped (transferred) from one ship or other form of transport to another. You may also see the term LCL (less than container load), which just means groupage via a sea freight service.

This consolidation of multiple consignments is different from full loads. A full truck load (FTL) or full container load (FCL) fills an entire vehicle or container, and is an efficient way to transport goods in bulk as you can book a dedicated express vehicle with no need for further collections or drop-offs that may delay your shipment.

Certificate of origin and groupage

EuroTunnel for road freight and groupage services to Europe.

If a certificate of origin is required, it’s the same for groupage transport as for all other types of transport, and is used mostly for customs clearance purposes.

For example, in international trade with Switzerland, an EUR1 certificate of origin applies to exports from the UK and is required by UK customs for goods with a value of over 6,000 euros – so that exporters can claim preferential exporting rates. (We can arrange a EUR1 certificate for you through our customs clearance services.)

For EU countries a note on the commercial invoice to the effect that the goods meet EU origin requirements may be needed to secure duty-free access.

The IFL difference in groupage services

IFL import and export groupage service schedule

We are specialists in European groupage with a range of core services including Swiss imports, Swiss exports, French exports, German imports and Italian imports.

We’re a trusted UK and European freight and logistics partner for many UK businesses, with 30+ years’ experience and long-standing transport affiliates across the EU and Europe. We offer scheduled groupage departures and reliable lead times, and work hard to resolve even the most complex logistics needs. All bookings are handled by real people – with no automated phone queues to leave you hanging.

Groupage operations are highly regulated by health and safety considerations, statutory law relating to the international carriage of goods and the customs requirements for your shipments. IFL is compliant in all these fields and the company always carries out its services in a diligent and professional manner.


What is the meaning of groupage?

Consolidating (or grouping) multiple consignments together into one single shipment going to the same country / destination.

What is an example of groupage?

If you have only a few pallets to send from the UK to France, for example, you will have a less than truckload consignment. If this delivery is urgent, you could book a dedicated vehicle for your goods. But if timing is less of an issue, you could opt to send your freight on a scheduled groupage service to France along with a number of other consignments. This would then be delivered to its final destination by local carriers.

What is a groupage shipping term?

Alternative terms include consolidation, cargo consolidation, LCL (less than container load), groupage transport, groupage service and groupage operation.

Is groupage the same as LCL?

LCL (less than container load) simply means groupage that is shipped using a sea freight service.

Want to know more about how we can manage your groupage shipments?

To learn more about our services, visit our groupage transport page.

Or to discuss these further and find a cost-effective solution for your transport and third-party logistics needs, talk to one of our experts. Call +44 (0)1675 434690 or email us at enquiries@internationalforwarding.co.uk.


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