The Unvarnished Truth About LTL Freight Transit Time Estimates

August 23, 2018 by Meyer Baron
Share on:

No one likes it when they book shipping and the estimated LTL freight transit time they were given turns out to be off by a day or two or more. At times like that, it’s important to remember that LTL freight transit time estimates are just that: estimates.

Here are a few other points that will help you cope with the uncertainties of LTL freight transit time estimates. Actually, they might bum you out, but in the end, we will share with you the nearly foolproof solution for making sure your freight gets where it needs to go on time. No fair skipping to the end.

With LTL Freight Shipping, Your Cargo Will Ride on at Least Three Trucks

The truck that picks up your freight will not be the truck that delivers it. It will take your freight to the carrier’s closest terminal, where it will be taken off by forklift and loaded on to another truck that will take the freight to the next terminal. This process is repeated until the freight reaches the destination terminal.

That trip could begin that day, or maybe the next. Once it reaches the destination terminal, your freight will once again be removed by forklift and loaded onto the delivery truck, which will make the delivery the next morning. (Freight is delivered in the morning and picked up in the afternoon.)

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

Let’s say you book a shipment on a Tuesday, 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, Sunday – freight does not move on the weekend
  • Monday – day 2 of long-haul transit
  • Tuesday – day 3 of long-haul and freight delivered to 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, not the following Wednesday. In your opinion, the shipment is five days late, but that is not how the freight world works.

Commercial Shippers Have Priority

If you’ve booked a shipment that will be picked up at your residence and delivered to another residence, you will likely be disappointed if the carrier fails 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.

But Commercial Shippers Can Have Their Disappointments as Well

This is a true story that happened to a commercial shipper not that long ago.

A company had reserved space at a huge trade show in Las Vegas. When the truck arrived at the exhibit hall with their booth, displays and materials, there were 23 trucks ahead of them, waiting to unload. By the time the truck made it to the loading dock, the show was already in progress and the booth could not be set up.

None of this was the fault of the carrier or the freight broker; it happened due to an insufficient number of people and forklifts to unload cargo at the exhibit hall.

Ordering Expedited Service is not Always a Guarantee of On Time Delivery

There are two primary forms of expedited service offered through FreightCenter.

  1. Some large national LTL carriers offer expedited delivery that comes with a guarantee that the delivery date will be met.
  2. There is a whole other segment of the freight shipping industry whose only service is expedited freight delivery. They use smaller trucks and once they pick up a freight shipment they head directly to the delivery destination.

Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, the current lack of shipping capacity (due to a lack of vehicles and drivers) has made it difficult for expedited service providers to live up to their guarantee. When they miss their delivery deadline, they usually offer to refund the shipper the difference between what a regular shipment would have cost and the much higher fee paid for expedited service.

One major LTL carrier has announced that their expedited service can still be booked, but is no longer guaranteed.

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 just has too many variables, none of which are your fault or FreightCenter’s fault. In the case of snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, other violent weather or even raging fires like the ones in California right now, a shipment not arriving on time is no one’s fault. It’s just reality.

So, be proactive. Take the initiative to get your shipment on the road earlier than you might think is necessary. You have nothing to lose except your disappointment.

Getting ready to ship LTL freight? Get an instant quote from multiple carriers and save up 95%.

Share on:

Let's Get Started

Compare Shipping Rates in an Instant

Get My Freight Quotes