What is LTL Freight Shipping

The less than truckload (LTL) service is used when smaller freight is transported, or on occasions when the freight doesn’t need an entire trailer to be transported. To put it simply, less than truckload (LTL) service is meant for smaller loads or less quantities of freight. It’s meant for freight between 150 and 15,000 pounds in weight. Many specialized logistics providers and large parcel service providers offer LTL services.

 LTL Freight Shipping

In LTL shipping, the shipper is required to pay only for the portion of the truck trailer that his freight occupies. The remaining space is taken up by the shipments of other shippers. In this way, the freight cost of the individual shippers is reduced thereby offering economies of scale.

How Does LTL Shipping Work?

Different variables are involved in deciding the specifics of LTL shipping. They include factors like the place of origin of the shipment, its destination, its weight, and if the shipment needs specialized handling. Another important factor is the size of the shipment. As the capacity of trucks varies between 800 cubic feet (16-foot truck) and 1,400 cubic feet (26-foot truck), the truckloads vary too.

The dimensions of the shipment also depend on the rules determined and the limits set by the carriers. Usually, they are between 150 and 15,000 pounds occupying 24 feet space of a truck’s trailer or even less and consisting of six or lesser pallets. LTL shipments get transported flat stands that are of plastic or wood usually measuring 48”x40”. One finds individual LTL loads often wrapped together creating a big box that helps optimize space utilization and raises security.

The LTL operates using a hub and spoke model where as regarding the space, they shared their space on a trailer. The local terminals are the spokes connecting to a network of distribution centers or main hubs. The freight is first loaded at local terminals from where the goods are pickup and then transported to the destination hubs. The goods are then directly delivered to the final destination or at times, transferred to other trucks for an onward journey to the recipient.

Advantages of Less than Truckload Shipping

LTL shipping comes with various benefits for shippers. They are-

  • Cost Reduction: With the remaining space of the trailer being occupied by other shippers, an individual shipper needs to pay only for the space that his shipment needs. Therefore, the cost of every individual shipper is reduced as it’s shared among them.
  • Added Service Options: LTL shipping offers every individual shipper to certain special add-on services, for example, inside pickup and delivery and liftgates. 
  • Raises Security: The LTL shipment of individual shipper is  first packed into a well pallet before it being loaded onto the truck. A single well-packed pallet offers higher security than those shipments that involve many smaller handling units.
  • Real-Time Tracking: The bill of lading number, the PO number, the shipment reference number, the PRO number, etc. can be used by the shippers to track their shipments. LTL carriers offer a live tracking service for the shippers.

What Decides the LTL Shipping Rates?

  • Location: The price is generally higher if the distance that needs to be covered to transport the freight is higher. 
  • Mode: Expedited LTL shipping services that ensure quicker delivery of the freight can be opted for by the shipper at an additional cost.
  • Dimensions: The freight class is decided by the dimensions and the weight of the shipment. This again decides the freight class having a direct impact on the rates.
  • Type of Freight: There are freight types like perishables, fragile or hazardous items that call for special handling and equipment. For transporting such freight, the rates are higher.

Know how many types of trucks?

Who Should Choose LTL Shipping Services?

  • If the freight that needs to be transported is below 15,000 pounds in weight, the shipper should pick LTL shipping service. In other words, shippers with smaller loads should opt for LTL shipping services.
  • Shippers looking to raise business profits by cutting costs should opt for LTL shipping services. As a shipper needs to pay only for the portion of the trailer his freight occupies the cost of transporting the freight is much reduced. That makes it ideal for smaller businesses. 

How One Should Prepare for Less than Truckload Shipping

Certain procedures need to be followed for less than truckload shipping. They are-

  • The dimension of the Shipment: When the length, height, and width of a shipment are measured, a shipper should round up to the next inch. This way, while a shipper can avoid adjustment fees, the carriers too can maximize their capacity by optimizing space utilization. 
  • Labeling and Packaging: For condensing and protecting the shipments, the goods should be loaded onto pallets. Heavy items should be at the bottom of the pallets or crates with a label being placed on the side for identification.
  • Documentation: Accurate completion of the bill of landing as far as possible is a must for handing over to the carriers upon arrival. It performs the function of a receipt for the goods being shipped.

Additional Services with Less than Truckload Shipping

  • Liftgate: Liftgate services are meant for shipments that weigh more than 100 pounds and there’s no dock at the receiving location which allows direct movement of the shipment off the truck. 
  • Inside Pickup and Delivery: There may be occasions when the carrier shall have to get into a building to pickup the freight or bring the shipment indoors for the completion of delivery. These services can be availed upon payment of an additional charge.
  • Expedited: Expedited freight delivery should be opted for when they need to be delivered quicker than the usual time needed for transit. There are special rates for such service.
  • Limited Access: Deliveries might often need to be made at locations with limited access for the carriers, like construction sites, strip malls, rural locations, or camps. The limited access service is meant for the delivery to such locations at an added cost.

LTL Shipping Involving Intermodal Transportation

LTL shipment travel may not always occur only by trucks. It may involve rail or air too for the forwarding of some freight to its destination. Dealing with railroads by LTL shippers is usually more effective than by small shippers as it involves the transport of large volumes of freight every day. To cite an example, truck trailers form a significant portion of rail intermodal traffic, many in a single intermodal train while carrying LTL freight.

The railroad delivery performance is monitored by the LTL carriers so that the freight is delivered within the specified time frame. Intermodal freight transport, therefore, involves several methods to transport the goods from the location of origin to the destination. For example, a shipment’s delivery may start on a railroad which may then be transferred to an ocean carrier, and finally on a truck before it reaches the final destination.

Many shippers consider intermodal transport advantageous as it requires no separate handling of the freight when it’s transferred from one mode of transport to the other. With the reduction of handling, the damage and loss are reduced too. On the other hand, the security of the shipment increases and quicker transport becomes possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How does less than truckload shipping work?

Answer: LTL shipping works adopting the hub and spoke model. In this model, the local terminals are the spokes that connect to the hubs, the larger central terminals that form a network for the delivery of the shipments.

Question: How does less than truckload shipping differ from full truckload shipping?

Answer: Less than truckload shipping involves carrying freight that doesn’t take up the entire space of a truck. On the other hand, full truckload shipping involves takes up the entire space of a whole truck and its weight limit too.

Question: Should parcel shipping be opted for or less than truckload?

Answer: A shipper should consider less than truckload shipping if his shipment weighs more than 150 pounds. Less than truckload shipping ensures competitive rates with expert advice too.

Final Words

Our article brings to light the nitty-gritty of less than truckload shipping. It defines the concept and goes on to discuss how it works. The advantages of such shipping are highlighted too. The mechanism involved in deciding the rates is mentioned too. We have also explained who should opt for less than truckload shipping services. The procedure involved in preparing for less than trucking service is mentioned too as is the intermodal transport system. Additional services that come with LTL shipping are discussed too. To further clarify the concept for our readers, we have included answers to a few frequently asked questions regarding LTL shipping.

Our aim has been to give you a comprehensive insight into the concept of less than trucking services. We hope that our readers find the article informative and useful. The article seeks to make sure that our readers know when to opt for LTL shipping.

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