The Art of Making LTL Freight Shipping Look Simple

May 31, 2018 by Meyer Baron
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For FreightCenter customers, LTL freight shipping should be simple. Get your instant quotes, choose the carrier you want, and presto, that’s it! And that’s how simple we want the shipping process to be for our shippers.

But a lot of work goes into making freight shipping look that easy, and as hard as we work to keep LTL freight shipping moving smoothly and meeting the shipper’s expectations, there are occasions—very infrequent ones, thankfully—when things don’t go as planned.

To help explain why LTL freight shipping isn’t always as smooth as we’d like, let’s take a look at some real-life complexities of moving LTL freight.

Every Piece of LTL Freight is Moved at Least Six Times

It’s easy to imagine that the truck that picks up your LTL freight from your loading dock carries it to its final destination. Such is not the case. The typical LTL shipment is moved on a forklift at least six times and is transported on a minimum of three different trucks. Here’s how those moves break down.

#1 – The Pickup

When your shipment is picked up, the vehicle is a locally-operating truck that is picking up as many LTL shipments in your area as possible. Where all these packages are going doesn’t matter at this point. Your cargo, like every other piece of LTL freight picked up by that local vehicle, will be put on the truck via forklift and taken to a nearby terminal.

#2 – Dropoff at the Origination Terminal

When all the pickups have been made, the truck will carry the cargo to a central hub, or terminal, where forklifts will remove all the LTL freight shipments that have been picked up. Dozens of other trucks that have made LTL Freight pickups will do the exact same thing. The cargo is sorted to make sure it ends up on the right truck.

#3 – Placement of LTL Cargo on the Correct Truck for the Long Haul

Forklifts then load all the LTL freight onto the assigned trucks that will do the bulk of the driving. Some may be going to the town next door, while others could be headed cross-country or anywhere in-between. Each of these long-haul trucks is headed to a terminal near their freight’s final destination.

#4 – Dropoff at the Destination Terminal

Once the long-haul truck arrives at the destination terminal, all the freight is removed by forklift and routed to another vehicle for local delivery.

#5 – Load the Delivery Truck

Delivery trucks are loaded by forklift with the correct cargo. Not all delivery trucks are the same. Some freight may need to be carried by vehicles with liftgates or on especially small trucks that can reach limited access locations. Commercial freight that is headed to a location with a loading dock can go on a standard truck with no special features.

#6 – Deliver the Freight

Finally, the LTL freight is removed by forklift from the delivery truck at its final destination.

Six forklifts. Three trucks. Here’s where things get tricky.

Every time that LTL freight is picked up and moved by a forklift or transported on a truck is an opportunity for the shipment to be damaged or lost. And in an extremely small number of cases, damaged and lost shipments happen.

Preventing damage is why we stress the need for proper packaging on a pallet or in a crate that not only protects your cargo, but also the cargo of other shippers whose LTL freight could conceivably be damaged by your package.

As for lost shipments, sometimes carriers lose freight. That happens with every LTL carrier. Lost freight is one of the unfortunate results of so much freight being moved so many times between its point of origin and eventual destination. Given the incredible number of shipments that a carrier handles in just one day, a lost shipment every couple of months comes down to a tiny percentage of the freight they transport. But when it’s your shipment that’s been lost, it can seem like a nightmare.

Instead of waiting for a nightmare, protect your shipment.

3 Ways to Protect Your Shipment from Damage and Loss

  1. Don’t let packaged freight extend over any of the pallet edges. Cargo that extends beyond the pallet is the leading cause of damage to freight in transit. Plus, not only do you put your freight at risk, you also may jeopardize other shippers’ LTL freight that is traveling on the same trucks.
  2. Label the package on at least two adjoining sides near the top of the shipment (but not on the top). The label should have the names, addresses and phone numbers of both the consignor (shipper) and the consignee (recipient). These must match the Bill of Lading. Proper labeling significantly improves the likelihood that a misplaced package (possibly put on the wrong truck) is eventually discovered and delivered. Also, by labeling adjoining sides near the top of the package, you make it more likely that the forklift operators who move the package will see your label, giving them an opportunity to correct a mistake before it happens.
  3. If your shipment is valuable, insure it. Don’t rely on the freight carrier’s liability coverage. Their liability is very limited, and you have to prove they were at fault to collect anything. Insurance provides the certainty of knowing you can collect on your claim of damage or loss, even if the carrier is not to blame. Please note that finding freight insurance for household and used items is more involved than it is for commercial shipments and newly manufactured goods. Not all insurance companies insure all types of freight, but if you look around you can find coverage.

These three tips are pretty simple to follow, and doing so will replace your potential nightmare scenario with peace of mind. Even if the complexities of moving LTL freight catch up with you once in a blue moon, you can still follow the old KISS motto: Keep It Simple Shipping.

Keys to Shipping Happiness

In our quest to make every FreightCenter shipper a happy shipper, we’ve launched a 6-part series of blog posts we call, Keys to Shipping Happiness. If you’ve missed them, start with Part 1: The LTL Shipper’s Checklist.

Have something you’re ready to ship? Get an instant quote from multiple top carriers or call our shipping experts at 800.716.7608.

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