3 best practices for LTL shipping.

April 21, 2016

You and a friend really want to attend a concert, but it's sold out. You could still get tickets – they just might not be available at face value or in those great seats you wanted.

You could purchase tickets on the secondary market and pay a premium. Another option is to look for leftover single tickets and not sit together. Or maybe you can opt for standing room only.

The less than truckload (LTL) industry is much like this scenario. Sometimes there is more freight requiring LTL delivery than there is available capacity. Even when there is an imbalance between demand for LTL and supply, options exist to move freight in a cost-effective manner.

There are many ways to obtain a seat in an LTL truck at a decent rate; here are three best practices we recommend:

  • Use multiple carriers.
  • Understand carrier tariffs.
  • Keep your weight and dimensions in mind.


Use multiple carriers.

The more LTL carriers you have established relationships with, the more choices you have in terms of rates, tariffs, shipping lanes and availability. If you're in an LTL market in which demand outstrips supply, a shipper needs options available.

Shippers can often find small, lesser-known carriers in a given region that will provide optimal pricing, especially if the shipment is confined to its given geographic area. On the other hand, shipments destined outside a carrier's normal service area will require the trucking company to transfer the freight to another LTL carrier for final delivery. This is called interlining, and it typically adds to the shipper's overall cost as well as delivery time.


Understand carrier tariffs.

A tariff is a document that outlines the intricate details that establish LTL freight shipping costs between a shipper and a carrier. Individual carriers maintain their own class rate tariffs and rules tariffs that they typically update every six months to a year. Class rate tariffs will dictate the various charges that apply to a shipment, often grounded in freight class. While rules tariffs will often include what may be thought of as add-on costs for certain types of freight or even particular origins and destinations.

Some of the common rules tariffs apply to furniture because of the susceptibility to damage, and apparel and footwear because of the high incidence of theft. It helps to know which carriers add rules on which types of freight so you can find those most amenable to the type of products you transport.

Shippers need to stay in front of updates to their tariffs. Otherwise, you could find surprises in your freight invoices - and maybe not the good kind. Conduct audits on your shipments to ensure you paid the proper rates. Your freight service provider can help you with this.

Carriers are not required to publish tariffs, but federal law mandates that they make them available to shippers who request them.


Keep your weight and dimensions in mind.

How you package freight can also save you money. LTL freight rates are based partially on weight and dimensions.

LTL shipments typically weigh between 150 and 20,000 pounds. Carriers will usually apply a per-100 pound discount on shipments as the freight moves up in weight, creating "weight breaks." For example, a carrier may apply one rate on shipments from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds, and a lower rate on loads between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds.

This means if your shipment weighs enough to qualify for a weight discount, you'll be paying less per pound. If it's possible to combine shipments, you can save overall because you'll pay less per pound on the combined freight than if you ship loads separately.

LTL carriers rely on freight dimensions to predetermine the number of individual loads for a specific truck. Inaccurate freight dimensions could result in an adjustment from the carrier and may be costly.

To protect your freight in transit and gain efficiency in loading time, crate or palletize your freight shipments.

The optimal way to ship LTL freight is in a cube. If your load fits on a pallet, you can use the pallet's dimensions, plus the combined height and weight of the pallet and freight to determine the load's density. Any protrusions or overhangs will add to a load's dimensions, which increases density and ultimately cost. To save money, you could possibly move part of the overall shipment that fits in a nice cube on an LTL load, then send the pieces that didn't fit within the cube separately via parcel or other method.


Final thoughts.

Using a freight service provider like Freightquote by C.H. Robinson is similar to having season tickets; you’ll have a seat at a fair rate when you are ready to go. Freightquote's analysts also stay abreast of changes in carrier tariffs and audit every shipment to ensure you paid the correct rate for the services provided.

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