When I begin working with a new customer at LPS, sometimes their very first question might be “What is LTL freight?” less than truckload freight, or LTL for short.
LTL is a popular mode of transportation shippers use frequently.
You can define LTL freight as usually 150 pounds or more and either crated or palletized in some form. Of course, you can ship anything— generally less than 150 pounds—via parcel service like UPS or FedEx. Since LTL shipments are smaller sized shipments that take up fewer linear feet than a full truckload, your freight will naturally be travelling with other shipper’s LTL freight, to create a full truckload.
For instance, if you’re shipping an LTL load from Chicago to New York, you’ll likely have multiple stops at terminals in between pick-up and destination, whereas a dedicated truckload shipment would have a direct to consignee delivery, without trans-loading your freight to another trailer.
Think of LTL as taking a bus. The mode is less expensive, but you’ll stop at every little town in between to pick up new passengers or freight. We work with 45+ nationwide and regional LTL carriers like XPO, Old Dominion and YRC Freight.
What Information You Need to Initiate an LTL Shipment
The first piece of information I’ll ask for, are the zip codes of where we are picking up the shipment and the zip code of the delivery address. Then I’m going to ask about the shipment’s details like weight, dimensions and the description of the freight commodity.
I’ll input these details into our transportation management system (TMS) and out comes a list of carriers and their rates, based off that particular lane and shipment detail. Each listing also includes estimated transit times for ease of choosing the best option for your needs.
For example, going to NYC from Chicago, transit times can vary between 2-4 business days based on the carrier used. Usually, a carrier with a longer transit time is going to be your more economical option, but depending on yours or your customer’s needs, you may not have the luxury of using that lowest cost carrier. The price delta between these carrier options, for the same service, can be as little as a few dollars to hundreds of dollars depending on the type of freight you are moving.
Once you decide what carrier and service option you want, we create your paperwork, i.e. bill of lading, and dispatch the carrier to pick up your shipment. After the carrier picks it up, we’ll obtain the PRO number and update our systems. Once that’s done you can go to our website to check shipment status anytime.
While in-transit to its destination, your shipment may go through multiple terminals. Because LTL freight gets handled a lot more than a truckload shipment, there are steps you can take to make the trip much smoother and avoid damages.
What You Can Do to Ensure Smooth-Sailing Shipments
Be flexible with shipping and receiving: LTL carriers do all their deliveries in early morning and early afternoon, and pickups in the late afternoons. To avoid missed pickups—something I see often—make sure your employees are available late afternoons— 3-5 p.m. A carrier may show up at 5 p.m. to pick up a load only to find the loading dock closed at 2 p.m. Carriers may charge attempted pickup fees, depending how far they had to travel to reach the shipper.
Package shipments correctly: To minimize breakage and damaged product, package your freight carefully. Band or shrink-wrap goods to the pallets. Add labels that caution against stacking and mark any fragile items with stickers. For other tips on packaging techniques, check out our blog post [link] on the topic. Also, note that insurance claims in the LTL world are often a hassle. LTL carriers don’t make insurance claims easy. Therefore, package your goods well to avoid breakage.
Include appropriate documentation: When shipping domestically always include a bill of lading (BOL) and packing slip. For shipments to Canada or Mexico, you will also need a commercial invoice. For shipments, outside of North America, you will need additional export documentation. I see a lot of shippers that fail to provide all the documentation to accompany shipments. That’s when delays happen, particularly at border crossings. To avoid delays in-transit, always include the appropriate documentation.
Looking for a great LTL freight partner? Let’s get to work.