LTL shipping is the most popular, reliable and cost-effective method of shipping. However, it can be complex and confusing if you’re unfamiliar with it. Think of LTL shipping as a ride share. Your freight will share space in a trailer with other shippers’ freight while in route to its destination. That means there’s more to the LTL shipping process than meets the eye. We break down LTL shipping and give you some tips for making LTL shipping easier.
Why Use LTL?
LTL is generally used for cargo that weighs 150 lbs. or more, is larger than a parcel but smaller than a full truckload. Typically, LTL is palletized or crated to reduce both rates and risk of damages.
Understanding the process better gives small business owners an advantage and helps consolidate their shipping process, utilize their resources more efficiently and is more effective because you are not paying for space that you don’t need.
Understanding the LTL Shipping Process
A common misconception is that your LTL freight shipment is simply picked up at point A and is delivered to point B. In reality, the average LTL freight shipment goes through at least 6 moves on a forklift and is transported on at least 3 different trucks before it arrives at its destination. Here’s how that breaks down:
- Pickup – To maximize capacity in the trailer, your shipment is picked up by a locally-operated truck that is also picking up other LTL shipments. Your freight will then be taken to a nearby terminal.
- Dropoff at Origination Terminal – The truck carrying your shipment arrives at a central hub/terminal where your LTL shipment is removed from that truck, organized, and put onto a different truck for shipping.
- Long-haul Truck – Your shipment is then moved onto this truck for the long-haul to its destination location. Keep in mind this truck shares its space with other LTL shipments. Typically, this truck goes to another terminal, not the final destination location.
- Dropoff at Destination Terminal – Once the long-haul truck arrives at the destination terminal, your freight is again removed by forklift and organized into the right locally-operated delivery truck.
- Loading the Delivery Truck – The delivery truck that your shipment is loaded onto is dependent on your shipment. Cargo that needs a liftgate or is being delivered to limited access locations will be placed on trucks that service those needs.
- Delivery – Finally, LTL freight is delivered to its final destination.
Understanding the process behind how your LTL freight moves helps you manage your expectations in terms of transit times. And as you can see, LTL freight typically takes longer than truckload for freight to arrive. Therefore, it’s important to allow more time for your LTL freight to arrive at its final destination. Because of the lengthy process, it’s even more important to keep tracking your shipment and ensuring you can account for the unexpected like weather delays.
Best Practices & Tips for LTL Shipping
Package for Safety
As mentioned before, your LTL shipment will constantly be travelling with other shippers’ items, meaning safety is the top priority while your freight is in transit. Proper packaging of your freight is at the top of the list of easy ways to avoid freight damage and loss claims.
Pallets are a shippers’ best friend since they can easily be moved around by all those forklifts we mentioned above. Shrink-wrapping your freight to a pallet without having anything overhanging off the sides of the pallet ensures safety during transit to yours and other shippers’ items.
Get more freight packaging tips or download our Guide to Freight Packaging for a comprehensive explanation of freight shipping best practices. If you’re unsure about how to package your freight properly, it’s important to reach out to your carrier or 3PL. They can help you identify what types of packaging your specific freight shipment might need.
Provide Accurate Information
This may sound like an obvious tip, but it is really important. Your shipment will always be weighed and measured by the carrier, using their sophisticated equipment. If your weight or measurements don’t match up with what the carrier reports during inspection, then you will likely receive a billing adjustment after shipping is completed.
Freight class is based on weight and measurements, so estimating your weight or measurements or guessing your freight class can lead to additional costs later.
If you ship frequently, it may be a good business investment to purchase a freight scale or partner with a local business to use their freight scale. Remember, you will want to weigh and measure your shipment when it’s on the pallet and properly packaged. The pallet will add some weight to your shipment that you need to report.
Accurate reporting of freight class, weight, and measurements saves you time and money.
Additional Insurance Coverage
It doesn’t hurt to know about freight insurance just to cover all your bases. Freight insurance can help protect you from unexpected damage and loss. Some types of freight are simply more valuable than others, and the limited liability coverage provided by the carrier may not fully cover freight damage or loss. If you are a regular shipper or running a business which relies on a constantly moving supply chain, things may go wrong sometimes. Insurance acts as a safety net ensuring you can adapt to unwanted occurrences.
There are many reasons to use a Transportation Management System (TMS), but due to the complexity of LTL shipping and variables like lanes, weight, dimensions and freight class, it only makes sense to use technology to streamline and simplify the entire process.
A TMS is a software solution that helps automate certain shipping functions and is designed to help you save time and money. It helps centralize and consolidate shipping options, so you can select the best option for your shipment quickly and easily.
While there are many benefits to using a TMS, the top three benefits and value added include providing business insights, easily source capacity with flexibility, and save time and money. You will be able to optimize your shipping strategy and improve any inefficiencies you identify within your supply chain.
FreightCenter Makes Shipping Easier
Partnering with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) like FreightCenter makes LTL shipping easier. With our large carrier of networks integrated with our powerful Transportation Management System (TMS), our expert shipping agents simplify the shipping process for you, so you can make the right logistics and shipping decisions for your business. Spend more time running your small business and less time worrying about shipping.