What Is LTL Freight? What Does It Mean in Trucking?

Any business that sells products or materials needs efficient, affordable shipping. Shippers, from restaurant suppliers to retailers, from manufacturers of furniture to pharmaceuticals, need a cost-effective method. There are multiple ways to move goods and raw materials, for example, by rail, truck, or air. Some shippers and loads benefit from shipping in smaller loads via Less Than Truckload (LTL) freight. LTL means a shipment only requires part of the truck trailer for transportation. This method has benefits and challenges for the shipper. LTL may be the best answer if your team cannot ship full truckloads (TL). So, consider whether to use LTL shipping or if a full truckload is a better option. For many products, LTL is the way to go. One example would be large, heavy loads on pallets that go to different destinations; commercial HVAC equipment is an example.

How LTL Freight Works

For carriers, LTL freight is a way to get the most out of each truck and enable shippers to share costs. Packing more than one load in a single trailer keeps costs low. The shipper or customer only needs to pay the charges for the space occupied rather than the entire trailer. Carriers calculate LTL rates from several factors: delivery location, volume (dimensions), total weight, and freight class based on the type of goods. There might be other cost factors. The ability to balance the load is a safety concern. Also, a hazardous load would require specialized handling and equipment. Packaging loads on pallets allows for quick moves. The transport and delivery may require “white glove” service, like inside pickup, removal of old equipment, or in-home or in-office delivery. Home or office delivery often requires specialized equipment, such as liftgates or a forklift depending on the weight and bulk of the load.

The Right Shipment for LTL

LTL freight is best used for shipments that are 12 pallets or fewer and between 150 to 15,000 lbs. LTL motor freight carriers pack and handle your load with at least one other shipper’s goods. This means there is more than one destination, so plan to use LTL when you can afford flexibility with your delivery date. This is because there are multiple destinations. Plus, you will want to pack your goods/materials to withstand extra handling since LTL shipments could get repositioned (or even change trucks) before reaching the destination.

Best LTL Practices

There are several essential things to remember when selecting your method of shipment. When using LTL freight, remember there may be additional or accessorial charges attached to the regular rate. Assessorial charges might be for labor, special pick up or delivery, destination, or delay. Know your freight class as well, and make sure your documentation is accurate to ensure efficient delivery. Be prepared to deal with first-come-first-served pickup windows since those are standard with LTL. Be conscious of the dimensions of your shipments and consider if they’ll fit nicely into an LTL trailer. Many carriers use trailers with rolling doors for LTL, which lowers the clearance. A trailer may carry 26 pallets of 45,000 pounds. Trailer dimensions might determine if your load fits, such as with an example width restriction of 101 inches or a height restriction of 110 inches. Note that actual dimensions could be less for height and width. Finally, your freight management team should keep track of your shipping metrics, such as cost per pound, on-time delivery performance, freight damage, and billing accuracy. If your team discovers deficiencies, you must address them with your carrier or find other carriers for the future.

Keeping track of all the details and best practices with freight shipping is challenging. Somebody on your team can do this, but it means additional responsibilities. That team needs to know or learn logistics freight management, build contacts in shipping, and understand what carriers serve pickup and delivery locations. A logistics management services company may be your best option. This freight management firm might hire carriers, track shipments, resolve exceptions, file damage claims, or audit freight invoices.

Manage Your Freight With Nexterus

Nexterus is a full-service supply chain and logistics services company that can identify and arrange LTL vs. FTL shipping. Our supply chain team uses their experience and knowledge to provide logistics services meeting customer needs and budgets. We arrange the right equipment for the load, like parcel transportation, temperature-controlled, refrigerated/frozen freight, dry van, or flatbed. We also ship domestic and international freight loads — anywhere. To learn how Nexterus can solve your logistics challenges and get a fast, free quote, submit a contact form today!

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