LTL pickup: what you need to know when booking.

April 21, 2017

Picture this: You’re responsible for the logistics management at your business that has a heavy ecommerce component. You have orders coming in and shipments that need to be sent out. You evaluate your load, visit an online freight service provider’s website, get a freight quote, and learn which shipping option is best for your situation.

In this instance, you and the freight expert you’re working with decide LTL freight shipping is the best match. But, now what? 

You must take the appropriate steps to prepare your shipment. Being unprepared when it comes time for pickup can result in a delayed delivery, unhappy customers, and as a result, a damaged business reputation. 

Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know when booking a LTL shipment, and specifically, what steps should be taken throughout the LTL pickup process.


Create an LTL pickup request.

Before all else, you must first submit your pickup request. Work with your freight service representative to enter the pickup location and pickup time (date and hour). Remember, standard transit times are not guaranteed. Most carriers will provide a guaranteed service with additional charges. Pickup dates are also not guaranteed. Determine how soon you need the freight to pick up and deliver and choose a carrier service that fits your needs. 

You will also want to note the time the dock closes at your location and any special equipment that might be needed upon the carrier’s arrival. If a liftgate or pallet jack is needed, make sure this is known before the carrier arrives so they can be prepared to handle your load without delay. 

Finally, you’ll have to note the shipment’s details. This is where you will provide the carrier with the size and type of shipment (number of pallets, what’s being shipped, total weight, etc.). Be sure to include any important notes or requests for special services.


Be aware of the two-hour LTL pickup window.

LTL shipping operates via a “hub and spoke” system, where the local terminals serve as the spokes and the larger central terminals act as the hubs. This system is very reliant on adhering to tight schedules and for this reason, the LTL shipping industry follows a two-hour pickup window standard. 

This industry standard requests that shippers enter their pickup time frame with more than a two-hour advanced notice. For example, if you set your pickup time frame between 2 PM and 4 PM, it’s best practice to enter the pickup request before noon. 

As a shipper, you should attempt to schedule the pickup the first moment you can, as it will allow carriers to schedule their route around your locations. It’s better to be safe than sorry – with this in mind, try to schedule a pickup with well more than a two-hour notice. 


Provide the required documentation.

To put it simply, the bill of lading (BOL) is the single most important documentation to have ready when the carrier comes to pick up your shipment. The BOL acts as a receipt of freight services and a contract between the carrier and shipper. When handing over the BOL to the carrier, be sure it includes fields such as: 

  • Shipping date 
  • Carrier and shipper details (load #, company information, addresses, etc.)
  • Shipment details (description, quantity, weight, NMFC class)
  • Special instructions 
  • Additional comments as needed

If you don’t complete the proper documentation required for carriage of your freight, or the documents are inaccurate, modifications will be made at your expense. Being prepared will help you avoid costly adjustments. 


Note and discuss accessorial services as needed.

LTL rates are generally determined by the freight class (NMFC) of the goods being shipped. The freight class takes into account the descriptions, size, and weight of the shipment. However, this is not the only factor that determines final rates. 

Additional fees may apply for accessorial services that require more than the classic dock-to-dock transport. When preparing your LTL shipment for pickup, be sure to take into account the need for special equipment and services like liftgates, non-commercial destinations, and inside pickup and/or delivery. 


Final thoughts.

Being properly prepared to send off your LTL shipment when the carrier arrives will lead to cost and time savings. Following these steps for booking and LTL pickups are made easier with online self-service tools at your disposal.

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