6 Ways an LTL Freight Carrier is NOT Like a Parcel Service

August 30, 2018 by Meyer Baron
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Most of us become familiar with shipping parcels when we send gifts to family and friends via the post office, UPS or FedEx. The first time we ship freight can be a real wake-up call, because an LTL (Less-than-TruckLoad) freight carrier and a parcel service operate very differently.

We’re specifying LTL freight shipping because it’s the most common form of freight shipping in America today, and likely how you will do your first freight shipment.

Here are those six differences:

1. With Freight, Lighter Isn’t Necessarily Less Expensive

When we ship a parcel, we know that the lighter it is, the less it will cost to ship. With LTL freight, weight is still important, but not in the same way as with parcel shipping.

An LTL freight carrier has a limited amount of space on their truck, and they need the weight. Cargo with a higher density (pounds per cubic foot) will cost less to ship than a shipment that takes up the same amount of space that weighs less. In practical terms, a crate carrying bowling balls will have a lower freight class and will cost less to ship than the same size crate carrying fluffy down pillows. That may sound strange, but it’s true.

When you prepare your freight shipment, keep the package as small as you can and pack it as densely as possible.

More on freight class and density

2. Businesses with a Loading Dock are the Baseline for an LTL Freight Carrier

When you get an LTL freight shipping quote, the baseline quote is for a shipment that will be picked up from a business with a loading dock and delivered to another business with a loading dock. Shipping to or from anything else is subject to what is called an accessorial fee.

The simplest and least expensive way to deal with accessorials is to include them in your quote request. If you need an accessorial and don’t include it when you book the shipment, you will receive a billing adjustment after the shipment has been delivered. The billing adjustment will include service fees, raising the total cost of your shipment.

More on accessorials and shipping locations

3. If You Don’t Have a Loading Dock, Baseline Delivery is to the Curb

Parcel deliveries are at your door, whether the location is a residence or business. With freight, the driver is responsible for getting the freight to a loading dock or the curb. If you book a heavy shipment without specifying the need for a lift gate, the driver may not be able to deliver it to the curb and will return to the terminal with your shipment. In such a case you will need to reschedule the delivery, which will incur an additional charge.

Learn about special services that will pick up or deliver your shipment beyond the curb

Again, these services should be selected when you book your shipment.

4. An Authorized Person Must Be There for Pickup and Delivery

Your freight carrier will not just drop off your shipment for you, as if it were a mail, UPS or FedEx parcel. An authorized person must be there at pickup to provide the driver with the Bill of Lading, and someone at the receiving end must check the shipment for damage and sign the Proof of Delivery.

Details of required paperwork for freight pickup and delivery

5. Your Freight Should be Crated or Palletized

With very few exceptions, LTL freight shipments are packaged and secured in crates or on pallets. With LTL shipping, your cargo will share the truck with freight belonging to other shippers. Every shipment must be packaged to optimize protection, not only for that shipment but also for shipments surrounding it in the truck. Since most shipments will exceed 150 pounds and be carried on at least three trucks before delivered, shifting of poorly-packaged cargo can cause considerable damage.

All you need to know about packaging and crating

6. With Freight, You Provide the Weights and Measurements

With all shipping, accurate weight and measurements of the shipment are required. We take our parcels to the post office or drop-off location and someone there measures and weighs the parcel. They then tell us how much shipping it will cost. It’s entirely off our shoulders.

With freight, you must provide accurate measurements and weight (that include the dimensions and weight of the pallet or crate you’re using) when you book the shipment. Both the measurements and the weight will be checked by the freight carrier. If the information you provide turns out to be incorrect, the carrier will adjust the bill, costing you more money.

How to make sure your weight and measurements are correct

Don’t Be Afraid to Ship Freight

Some people become afraid to ship freight once they realize how different it is from parcel shipping. You don’t need to be afraid, you just need to learn something new.

The key is to have a solid, experienced partner in the process who can help make sure that you cover all your bases. That’s where FreightCenter has come in since 1998. Our in-house shipping experts don’t just help you get the cheapest freight quote from our network of 50+ LTL freight carriers, they guide you every step of the way.

Have something to ship? Get an instant quote or give an expert shipping agent a call at 800.716.7608.

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