The Truth About LTL Freight Transit Time Estimates

January 14, 2020 by Meyer Baron
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When it comes to LTL freight shipping, there are many factors that can change your estimated freight transit time. Nobody likes booking a shipment and the estimated LTL freight transit time they were given ultimately turns out to be off by a day or two. Understanding some of the most common reasons why your LTL freight transit time estimate might increase keeps your supply chain running smoothly.

Multiple Trucks

Your LTL freight shipment will ride on at least three trucks before it’s delivered, which means an even greater chance of a shipment’s transit time being impacted. The truck that initially picks up your freight will take it to the carrier’s closest terminal. Once there, your freight will be unloaded via forklift and loaded onto another truck that will take the freight to the next terminal. This process is repeated until the shipment reaches the destination terminal.

Once your freight reaches the destination terminal, it will again be removed by forklift and loaded onto the delivery truck, which will make the delivery the next morning. Typically, freight is delivered in the morning and picked up in the afternoon.

What an Online Estimated Transit Time Quote Means

When you get an online quote for shipping freight, the estimated transit time accounts only for the long-haul part of the trip. That means you need to add one day for pickup and another day for delivery to the quoted transit time.

Let’s say you book a shipment on a Wednesday, and the carrier quotes a 3-day LTL freight transit time. Here’s how that timing might work out:

  • Wednesday – shipment booked
  • Thursday – shipment picked up and taken to terminal
  • Friday – day 1 of long-haul transit
  • Saturday and Sunday – freight does not move on the weekend
  • Monday – day 2 of long-haul transit
  • Tuesday – day 3 of long-haul and freight arrives at delivery terminal
  • Wednesday – freight delivered to destination

As far as the carrier is concerned, the shipment was in transit for three days. But you thought it would arrive on Friday or Saturday, not the following Wednesday. While it seems like the shipment is five days late, it’s considered on time because the carrier transit time was three days. That is why it’s important to add a day for pickup and a day for delivery to the transit time quote. And keep in mind that freight transit times are only counting business days, which could add to your overall freight transit time as well.

Commercial Shippers Have Priority

If you’ve booked a shipment that will be picked up at a residential location and delivered to another residential location, you will likely be disappointed to learn the carrier failed to pick up your freight on the appointed afternoon.

In many cases this happens because the carrier gets a late booking from a commercial shipper, and commercial shippers always have priority over residential shippers. Why? Because freight shipping was started and has evolved as a commercial enterprise. When necessary, residential shipments take a back seat to commercial shipments.

The Best Way to Make Sure Your Freight Arrives on Time

Book early. Ship early.

Don’t wait for the last minute to book your shipment and schedule a pickup day. The freight shipping industry has too many variables like the ones described above. Additionally, weather can have an impact on freight transit times. In the case of snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires or other violent weather events, a shipment not arriving on time is nobody’s fault. It’s just part of freight shipping reality.

So, be proactive and book your shipments as early as possible. Getting ready to ship LTL freight? Let us help, and get an instant quote from multiple carriers to help save you money and time.

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