I'm starting a US business and will need to ship a ton of packages of about 5000 in a month. I'm sourcing the product from HK. Each package is about 5 lbs and 5x5x5 inches.
Any tips on which carrier is the cheapest choice?
And I've never shipped so many packages before, how does it work? Does the carrier bring a truck and I load the packages on it?
I'd investigate Amazon Fulfillment, Drop360 or Shipwire. They handle all the hassle of shipping and storage of your product. More often than not you can have your manufacturer ship to your fulfillment center directly, save a lot of time and money.
Pricing is variable depending on a lot of factors, do some research to find out what's cheapest.
What country are you in? Does the material in the package violate any shipping rules for the various carriers that exist in your local? Do you need to track the shipments? Is the shipment time sensitive? And where are you shipping from and to?
In the US, you have the choice between US Mail, Fed Ex, and UPS. US Mail prices are fixed. Both Fed Ex and UPS prices can be negotiated based on shipping volume. So there is no easy way to give you an indication of who has the lowest price.
All three carriers will send a truck to pick up your items. You don't load the truck, they do. You may have to pay a fee to ensure daily pickups. In addition, if you negotiate a price based on shipping volume and don't meet that volume you will probably pay much larger shipping fees.
Have a listen to some of the back issues of Automate My Small Business Podcast. They discuss this several times, along with the end to end fulfillment cycle ... and usually give good site references, plus they are pretty good to listen to.