Less Than Truckload (LTL) In Freight Shipping: What Does It Mean?

Less Than Truckload (LTL) In Freight Shipping: What Does It Mean?

In today's fast-paced world, the efficient transportation of goods is a cornerstone of successful business operations. Among the various shipping methods available, freight less than truckload (LTL) shipping stands out as a versatile and economical choice for those looking to transport smaller freight loads. This method is particularly suitable for shipments that weigh between 150 and 15,000 pounds and do not require the full space of a truck trailer. LTL shipping allows shippers to pay only for the space their cargo occupies, sharing the cost of transportation with other shippers. This introduction to LTL shipping will delve into its advantages, key considerations, and scenarios where it is the ideal choice, providing a comprehensive overview for anyone looking to optimize their shipping strategy.

Definition of LTL Freight Shipping

Less than truckload (LTL) freight shipping is a transportation method for smaller freight or when the cargo doesn't necessitate the use of an entire trailer. This approach is suitable for shipments weighing between 150 and 15,000 pounds.

In LTL shipping, the shipper only pays for the space their freight takes up in a standard truck trailer, with the remaining space filled by other shippers' cargo. There are several advantages to using LTL for shipping.

Advantages of LTL Shipping

  • Cost Efficiency: With LTL shipping, you only pay for the space your shipment occupies in the trailer, while the cost for the remaining space is shared among other shippers.
  • Enhanced Security: LTL shipments are often consolidated onto pallets before loading onto the truck. A single, well-packaged pallet is more likely to stay secure compared to multiple smaller units.
  • Additional Services: LTL shipping provides access to special services such as liftgates, inside pickup, and delivery options.
  • Shipment Tracking: LTL carriers offer tracking options using various identifiers like the bill of lading (BOL) number, PRO number, shipment reference number, PO number, or the range of pick-up dates.

Determinants of LTL Quotes and Shipping Rates

  • Shipping Locations: The greater the distance a shipment needs to travel, the higher the shipping cost will be.
  • Accurate Dimensions: Providing precise dimensions, size, and weight of the shipment is crucial for obtaining accurate quotes.
  • Item Type: Shipments that require special handling or equipment, such as perishables, fragile, or hazardous items, will incur higher costs.

Ideal Scenarios for Choosing Less Than Truckload (LTL) Shipping:

  • Small Shipments: When your cargo is too small to occupy a full truck, LTL shipping is a smart choice. It allows you to consolidate your shipment with others, sharing transportation costs and paying only for the space your goods use.
  • Flexible Delivery Timing: If your shipment isn't urgent and can tolerate variable delivery times, LTL is a suitable option. It involves consolidating multiple shipments, which may extend transit times but offers scheduling flexibility.
  • Local or Regional Moves: For shipments within a local or regional area, LTL is often the preferred method, particularly when the destination is relatively close.
  • Limited Storage Capacity: Businesses with restricted storage space can benefit from LTL shipping by sending smaller quantities more frequently, thus reducing the need for large storage facilities.
  • Sustainability Objectives: LTL shipping is environmentally friendly, as it consolidates several shipments into one truck, lowering the carbon footprint compared to individual shipments.

Nonetheless, LTL shipping may not be suitable for all circumstances. If your shipment needs rapid delivery, or special handling, or is particularly large, exploring other options such as expedited or full truckload (FTL) shipping might be advisable. Additionally, partnering with reputable carriers is vital to guarantee the dependability and security of your shipments.

Preparing LTL Shipments:

  • Dimensions: When measuring the length, width, and height of your shipment, round up to the nearest inch. Providing accurate dimensions allows carriers to optimize their capacity and helps you avoid potential adjustment fees.
  • Documentation: Fill out the bill of lading (BOL) as accurately as possible and hand it over to the carrier upon their arrival. This document serves as a receipt for the goods being transported.
  • Packaging and Labeling: Consolidate and protect your goods by loading them onto pallets. Place heavier items at the bottom of pallets or crates, and ensure that a label is affixed to the side for easy identification.

Additional Services for LTL Shipping:

  • Expedited Shipping: Opt for expedited service when you need your goods to reach their destination faster than the standard transit time.
  • Liftgate Service: This service is necessary when the freight exceeds 100 pounds and the receiving location lacks a dock for direct unloading from the truck.
  • Limited Access Delivery: Required for shipments going to locations with restricted access for LTL carriers, such as construction sites, camps, rural areas, and strip malls.
  • Inside Pickup and Delivery: If the carrier needs to enter the building to pick up or deliver the freight, you'll need to request this service.

Frequently Asked Questions about LTL Shipping:

How does LTL shipping work?

LTL shipping employs a hub-and-spoke model. In this system, local terminals serve as the spokes, while larger central terminals act as the hubs or distribution centers. Freight is consolidated at these hubs before being distributed to their respective destinations.

How is LTL freight priced?

LTL freight quotes are determined by various factors, including the distance the shipment needs to travel, the size and freight class of the shipment (based on dimensions and weight), and any additional handling or equipment requirements, such as inside delivery or liftgate services for loading/unloading. Opting for services like expedited or guaranteed delivery can also influence the cost of LTL freight shipments.

Is it necessary to know the freight class of my shipment?

Understanding the freight class is essential in the LTL shipping industry as it helps categorize cargo according to its density, ease of stowage, handling requirements, and liability risk. In the past, this meant identifying the specific National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) number for your item and referencing comprehensive lists to find the corresponding freight class. However, modern technology has simplified this process. Online quoting tools now exist that can automatically calculate and assign the appropriate freight class based on the weight and dimensions of your shipment.

What's the difference between LTL and FTL?

Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments are those that do not fill the entire space of a truck, while full truckload (FTL) shipments occupy the entire space or weight limit of a trailer.

Should I ship the parcel or LTL?

For shipments over 150 pounds, LTL shipping is recommended. Using a freight service provider for LTL shipping offers competitive rates and expert advice.

How fast is LTL freight shipping?

The hub-and-spoke model of LTL shipping, which involves consolidating freight, typically results in longer transit times compared to full truckload services. However, options for guaranteed and expedited services are often available to expedite delivery.

What happens during the pickup of my LTL shipment?

During the pickup of your LTL freight, provide the driver with your bill of lading for a smooth transfer. Unless specified otherwise (such as with inside pickup and delivery services), the driver will not assist with loading, so you'll need to handle that yourself.

Choosing between less than truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL)

This depends on factors like freight dimensions, weight, and the need for special services. LTL is cost-efficient for shipments under 15,000 pounds, using a hub-and-spoke model that can lead to longer transit times but allows for shared space and costs. FTL is suitable for larger shipments over 15,000 pounds or when a whole truck is needed, offering faster delivery with less handling. Each method has its advantages, so the choice depends on the specific requirements of your freight. For competitive quotes and assistance in deciding between LTL and FTL, Freightquote by C.H. Robinson can provide guidance and help you book your shipment.

Freight less than truckload shipping is a vital cog in the machinery of logistics, offering a harmonious blend of cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and efficiency. It stands as a testament to the ingenuity of the shipping industry, providing a tailored solution for smaller shipments that do not require the full expanse of a truck trailer. By embracing LTL shipping, businesses can not only optimize their logistics operations but also contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly supply chain through the consolidation of goods. The adaptability of LTL shipping ensures that it caters to a diverse array of shipping needs, from small businesses seeking to reduce overhead costs to large corporations aiming to streamline their distribution networks. As we move forward in an era where the dynamics of commerce and transportation are ever-evolving, the role of LTL shipping will undoubtedly continue to grow and adapt, remaining an indispensable tool in the arsenal of shippers worldwide.