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Going from parcel shipping to freight shipping for the first time may seem intimidating. Although you might be familiar with the standard practices of parcel shipping, your business could benefit from moving to less-than-truckload or LTL shipping. In general, parcel shipping is best for freight that is 150 pounds or less, fits in a smaller package and can be lifted without assistance. LTL shipping is best for freight that is over 150 pounds, is bulky or an awkward shape. There are many ways an LTL freight carrier is not like a parcel service. Knowing the differences between how an LTL freight carrier operates and how a parcel service operates saves you money and helps you avoid shipping hassles and headaches.

5. Weight

When shipping with a parcel service, the less your package weighs, the less it’ll cost to ship. Like we stated earlier, parcel service freight is 150 pounds or less. But it’s a little more complicated when shipping with an LTL freight carrier. With LTL, costs of shipments are calculated based on other factors like freight class and density.

Freight class is a system using the tariff that helps determine shipping rates. With NMFC codes, your freight is grouped into freight classes. Freight class is based on density, freight stowability, ease of handling and liability. The density, or pounds per cubic foot, of your cargo is one of the factors that defines what it’s freight class will be. You can easily find the density of your cargo by using our freight class density calculator tool. In general, shipments that have a higher density have lower freight classes and are cheaper to ship.

You can learn more about how freight class impacts the cost of your shipment by downloading our Easy Guide to Freight Class.

4. Location, Location, Location

A parcel service delivers packages right to your door, no matter what type of location it is. Again, not the case with LTL. An LTL freight carrier has to know exactly where they’ll be picking up and dropping off freight shipments. LTL carriers don’t deliver your shipment to your door or come inside to pick up a shipment. However, there are add-on services for additional fees that can be included. Depending on the pickup & delivery location, certain types of accessorials (add-ons) are required and must be included when filling out an LTL freight quote.

For example, if a location doesn’t have a loading dock or forklift for loading or unloading, a liftgate will be required. Additionally, residential locations (i.e. houses or businesses that operate from a home) require a driver hauling a large freight trailer to maneuver around suburban streets, avoid hanging trees and drop liftgates to make pickups and drop-offs. This means that the residential location accessorial and liftgate accessorial will be required. Keep in mind that inside delivery and pickup services are an additional service & fee which you must request from an LTL carrier because it’s not part of the standard operating procedures.  

If the origin or destination locations are considered a limited access location, there will be special instructions drivers must follow that include delivering or picking up during certain operating hours or coordinating with multiple parties to complete the shipment.

Knowing how to classify pickup and drop-off locations will help you ship with ease and avoid costly billing adjustments.

3. Authorized Signatures

The typical parcel service usually just drops off your packages to you without the need for someone to sign off on any paperwork unless specified. But when shipping with an LTL freight carrier, an individual has to be present at both the pickup and delivery locations to properly authorize the pickup and drop-off procedures.

The Bill of Lading (BOL) and the Proof of Delivery (POD) are two important documents that you need. The BOL provides all parties involved, meaning the customer, carrier and driver, with information regarding shipping costs and transport information. The POD is essentially a receipt confirming delivered goods. An authorized individual provides the BOL to the freight driver at pickup and the POD has to have an authorized signature at delivery after checking the shipment for damages.

2. Packaging Requirements

One of the most important things to keep in mind when shipping with an LTL freight carrier is properly packaging your freight shipments. The vast majority of LTL freight is either crated or palletized as opposed to the typical taped up boxes you would ship with the common parcel service.

Proper packaging is so important that if a driver deems a shipment at pickup not properly packaged, they could decline picking it up at that time. This could leave you with the hassle of rescheduling and paying for another pickup. Additionally, LTL freight carriers don’t like empty tractor trailers, so they want to fill their trucks up as much as they can. That means your shipment will be sharing transit with other shippers’ packages. Properly packaging your freight helps avoid damage to your freight and other people’s during the trip.

For best freight packaging practices, check out our Guide to Freight Packaging which is full of information and tips on how to properly package your freight.

1. You Provide the Information

No matter what you’re shipping, accuracy regarding weight and dimensions is crucial – don’t just guess or estimate. The common parcel service can weigh and measure your parcel on sight, and there’s no question as to what you’ll be paying since the parcel service will be the ones quoting you.

But LTL freight carriers require you to provide the weight and dimensions of your freight shipments when filling out a freight quote. This makes it absolutely essential to be as accurate as possible when measuring and weighing your freight shipments. Guesstimates are commonly thought to be good enough, but just like the parcel service weighs and measures your parcel, the LTL freight carrier is required to weigh and measure your shipment also. If you estimate the weight or dimensions  and they are off from the actual weight or dimensions, the LTL freight carrier will adjust your freight billing invoice accordingly for any discrepancies between your information and theirs.

Don’t Go it Alone

The biggest difference between an LTL freight carrier and a parcel service is how easy it is to get discounted shipping rates. By partnering with a third-party logistics company (3PL) like FreightCenter, you get discounted rates and can book your shipments with the best LTL freight carriers in the business.

LTL freight shipping is easy when you have a partner! We’re here to help you every step of the way. Start by getting a free quote today or give us a call at (800) 716-7608. FreightCenter is ready to be your shipping department.

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