What is LTL freight shipping?

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LTL freight shipping definition.

Less than truckload freight shipping (LTL) is used for the transportation of small freight or when freight doesn’t require the use of an entire trailer. This shipping method can be used when freight weighs between 150 and 15,000 pounds. 

When shipping LTL, the shipper pays for the portion of a standard truck trailer their freight occupies, while other shippers and their shipments fill the unoccupied space. There are a number of benefits to shipping via LTL.

 

Benefits of LTL shipping.

  • Reduces costs: When booking an LTL shipment, you only pay for the portion of the trailer used. The rest of the cost is covered by the other occupants of the trailer’s space. 
  • Increases security: Most LTL shipments are packaged onto pallets before being loaded onto a truck. One well-packaged pallet has a better chance of remaining secure than shipments with multiple smaller handling units.
  • Additional service options: When shipping via LTL, you gain access to special services like liftgates and inside pickup and delivery.
  • Tracking: LTL carriers offer tracking capabilities through the bill of lading number, PRO number, PO number, shipment reference number and pick up date range, to name a few. 

 

Factors that determine LTL shipping rates.

  • Location: Generally, the further the distance, the higher the price. 
  • Dimensions: The dimensions and weight of the shipment help determine the freight class, which directly impacts rates. 
  • Mode: LTL shipments can be expedited, typically for an additional fee.
  • Type: A shipment that requires special handling or equipment (perishables, fragile, hazardous items) will likely lead to higher costs. 

 

When to choose LTL shipping.

  • LTL shipping is ideal for businesses who have freight under 15,000 pounds and do not require a full trailer.
  • Consider LTL when looking to maximize cost savings.

 

Preparing LTL shipments.

  • Dimensions: Round up to the next inch when measuring the length, width and height of a shipment. Accurate dimensions are critical for carriers to maximize their capacity and for you to avoid adjustment fees.
  • Documentation: The bill of lading should be completed as accurately as possible to give to the carriers when they arrive. This document acts as a receipt for the goods that are being shipped.
  • Packaging and labeling: Load goods onto pallets to condense and protect your shipments. Heavy items should be placed on the bottom of pallets or crates and a label should be placed on the side.

 

 Additional LTL shipping services.

  • Expedited: When you need goods to arrive at their destination more quickly than the standard transit time, request an expedited freight quote.
  • Liftgate: Used when freight exceeds 100 pounds and the receiving location does not have a dock for the shipment to be moved directly off the truck.
  • Limited access: This service is required for deliveries heading to locations that have limited access for carriers, such as construction sites, camps, rural locations, strip malls, etc. 
  • Inside pickup and delivery: If the carrier needs to enter the building to obtain the freight to load or complete a delivery by bringing it indoors, you will need to ask for this service. 

 

Common LTL shipping questions.

  • How does LTL work?  LTL shipping essentially operates on a hub and spoke model where local terminals are the spokes and larger central terminals are the hubs or distribution centers. 
  • What’s the difference between LTL and FTL? Freight that does not require the entire space of a truck is known as LTL shipping, whereas full truckload shipments take up the space or weight limit of an entire trailer.
  • Should I ship parcel or LTL? If you are shipping over 150 pounds, consider LTL. Shipping LTL with a freight service provider means competitive rates and expert advice.

 

Additional resources.

 

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