LTL shipping is shipping less than a load, not filling a truck. These smaller freight loads are usually many separate freight shipments loaded onto the same truck on pallets of 150 to 10,000 pounds.
To make LTL shipping work, the carrier has to optimize pickup times across multiple customers in order to move more freight at a lower cost. It’s one way freight companies can keep up their profits in a time of freight rate deflation. From the carrier point of view, LTL is quite complex. But from the customer point of view, LTL is less expensive, faster. and more efficient.
How Do Shippers Make LTL Shipping Work?
LTL shipping is not quite as simple as dropping off a package at your local UPS or Fedex store. After all, you are looking for a far more favorable rate than you would get by shipping a single, small parcel. You aren’t paying by the package.
You pay by the amount of space in the trailer your shipment requires, the kind of handling your shipment needs (for instance, whether the shipment is fragile or hazardous), where the shipment is picked up and where it is dropped off.
Your shipment is delivered to a single location. That doesn’t mean it makes the whole trip in the same truck. LTL shippers typically move your pallets six times to load them into three different trucks to get a single shipment from departure to destination.
The whole process goes something like this:
- The carrier picks up your freight in the same kind of truck it uses for deliveries.
- The shipment is dropped off at a central hub, where it is unloaded, sorted, routed, and prepared for the next part of its journey.
- The shipment is loaded onto a long-haul truck, which takes it to another freight terminal.
- The shipping company transports the freight from the the second hub to a local freight terminal.
- Another local delivery truck delivers the shipment to its destination.
You can get special services with LTL freight, such as liftgate pickup and deivery, reweighing, and reclassification. You can even get residential delivery. All of these services require additional fees.
Why Would You Choose LTL Shipping?
There are many benefits of LTL shipping, starting with cost.
Since you are only using part of a truck, you only pay part of the cost. But you will pay just 10 to 30 percent of what it would cost to ship piece-by-piece. LTL shipping is friendly to small businesses. LTL shippers, unlike some of the larger carriers, don’t charge for unused space.
LTL shipping is also more friendly to the environment. In LTL shipping, a few trucks carry full loads. In traditional long-haul shipping, a lot of trucks carry partial loads. LTL shipping reduces your company’s carbon footprint. And LTL can be tailor-made for ecommerce. Vendors don’t have to wait until they can fill a truck to fulfill their orders. They can meet promised delivery times at a lower cost.
Are There Any Problems with LTL Shipping?
There are certain situations in which LTL is not the best shipping option.
- Because there are multiple shipments on each truck, individual deliveries take longer than loading a truck and sending it directly to its destination.
- Not every freight line offers LTL shipping. You may have to use a free quoting tool to find the best carrier at the best price.
- Using LTL shipping requires attention to detail. The class of your freight, the weight of each pallet, the services you require at pickup, and the mileage to your freight’s destination all factor into the cost of using LTL.
How to Make the Most of LTL Shipping
The most important requirement for benefting from LTL shipping is having enough freight to use LTL shipping consistently. Shipments as light as 150 pounds may be cheaper to send by LTL, but there is a minimum shipping volume to make consolidating shipmets worth your time.
If you have enough volume, consider investing in a freight management system. Choosing a TMS (transportation management system) platform that works for you can help you plan your shipments and choose among carriers for maximum profitability.