Editor's Note: This is the final part of a three-part series. Click here to read parts one and two.

When we think of direct mail, these important factors usually come to mind: the offer, the design, and the address list. Postage is also important to ensure that your mail costs remain low. While these are all significant, there is another factor often overlooked: transportation.

Transportation influences cost and delivery time. That’s why some direct mailers invest in a transportation program that helps them maximize postage discounts and meet mailer specifications. But, implementing such a program can seem daunting, if not cost-prohibitive. Instead, many mailers simply drop mail at the local post office, sacrificing postage discounts earned when the mail is trucked directly to the USPS destination entry points. Delivery times are also jeopardized as the mail dropped at the local post office must first be processed through the origin USPS entry location, then onto the destination USPS entry point — an extra step that can be costly in both time and money.

Fortunately, there are alternatives that allow a client to drop mail at destination entry points regardless of their mailing sizes. The first is commingling, which we discussed in the previous article. When commingled, your mail rides along with other mail in trays to the final destination point. To read more, click here. Clients can also participate in two other programs that leverage transportation options: co-palletization and co-transportation. Let’s take a closer look at each.

While commingling combines multiple mail pieces into a single tray, co-palletization (copal) combines different mailers’ mail trays on the same pallet. All the trays on the pallet must be prepared to present to the same Network Distribution Center (NDC) or Sectional Facility Center (SCF) in order to be combined on the pallet. Although there are several USPS preparation requirements for mail to be presented to the USPS as “copal” mail, the USPS rewards this form of workshare partnering with additional discounts. For those who are not sure they want to take on the investment to prepare the mail, there are logistics providers, commingling providers, and consolidators who can partner with you to properly prepare your mail for presentation to the USPS.

Another alternative to improve your postage and entry into the USPS for delivery is partnering to share trucks. While today’s gas prices may be lower than in recent years, they remain a large part of transportation costs. Fuel surcharges and overall transportation costs can add up fast. Coupled with postage and mail piece costs, it can increase total project costs significantly, especially for smaller volume jobs. To better understand how much your transportation costs can add to your mail piece costs, divide the total cost of transportation by the number of pieces. Add that number with your per piece postage and preparation costs, and you will see the impact.

Shared costs for transportation are a key way to save money. Often, a mailing fills only a portion of a truck, but the cost to move the truck is the same whether it is full or not. By working together with a partner to fill a truck, overall transportation costs are reduced. Co-transportation, whether partnering to fill trucks with a consolidator or a services provider, enables small and large mailers to reduce their overall mailing costs.

As you consider the best ways to reduce your mail costs during the fall mailing season, remember this: Whether your mailings are small or large, postage can be further reduced when the mail bypasses the local USPS entry point and is transported directly to the SCF or NDC USPS entry points. And because the mail arrives closer to the destination where the mail will be delivered, a faster in-home delivery should result. Sharing transportation costs through co-palletization or co-transportation also reduces overall budget costs. By implementing these programs on its own or with a partner, a company can better manage postage costs and transportation efficiencies.

Alison Hall is Product Manager, Direct Mail Solutions, Pitney Bowes Presort Services. She has over 25 years of experience in the mailing industry, helping clients drive revenue and develop innovative direct mail solutions. She can be contacted at alison.hall@pb.com and @p_AlisonHall. For more information, visit www.pitneybowes.com/us/directmail