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How Does LTL Shipping Work?

Shipping LTL (Less Than Truckload) is how small to mid-sized businesses ship partial truckload shipments without paying for a full 53-foot trailer. Shipping full truckload trailers can be expensive and add up even quicker if you send them often. Hiring a full truckload for shipments that do not use the trailer’s total space relatively wastes your company’s money.

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What Is LTL Shipping?

LTL shipping is transporting products or goods that do not require an entire truckload. These shipments can range anywhere from 150 pounds to 10,000 pounds. These smaller freight loads typically result in many separate shipments transported on one truck. Shipping less than truckload allows shippers to divide the cost of a whole 53-foot trailer among several shippers.

How Does It Work?

LTL freight shipments can go through at least six moves on a forklift, followed by transportation on at least three different trucks before it arrives from point A to B.

LTL Shipment Steps:

  1. Pickup | To maximize capacity in the trailer, your shipment is picked up by a locally-operated truck. Your freight then goes to a nearby terminal, and this truck will pick up other LTL shipments.
  2. Drop-off at Origination Terminal | The truck carrying your shipment arrives at a central hub/terminal. This is where your LTL shipment is removed from that truck, organized, and put onto a different truck for shipping.
  3. Long-haul Truck | Your shipment then moves onto this truck for the long-haul to its destination location. Typically, this truck goes to another terminal, not the final destination. Keep in mind this truck shares its space with other LTL shipments.
  4. Drop-off at Destination Terminal | Once the long-haul truck arrives at the destination terminal, your freight is again taken off of the car via forklift. Your shipment is then organized into the right locally-operated delivery truck.
  5. Loading the Delivery Truck | The delivery truck your shipment loads onto depends on your shipment. Cargo that needs a liftgate or is in transit to limited access locations will ship on trucks that serve those needs.
  6. Delivery | Finally, LTL freight reaches its final destination.

Be Aware While Shipping LTL

LTL freight typically takes longer than truckload for cargo to arrive. Therefore, allowing more time for your LTL freight to arrive at its final destination is essential. Because of the lengthy process, it’s even more important to keep tracking your shipment. Knowing the method and location of your shipment ensures that you can account for the unexpected, like weather delays.

How Are LTL Rates Determined?

  • Length of Haul | The further the distance of your haul, the higher the shipping rate. 
  • Size of your load | The size and weight of the shipment help determine the freight class. The higher the course, the more you will pay per lb. 
  • Added services | Shipping LTL gave you a range of accessorials and added benefits such as:
    • Liftgate | Liftgates come into use when freight exceeds 100 pounds and the receiving location does not have a dock for the shipment to move directly off the truck.
    • White-Glove | White glove carriers use added care with handling and moving cargo. In freight shipping, this means taking additional safety measures to deliver your shipment, and you don’t lift a finger.
    • Inside pickup and delivery | If the carrier needs to enter the building to obtain the freight to load or complete the delivery by bringing it indoors, you will need to ask for this service. 
    • Expedited shipping | Request an expedited freight quote when you need goods to arrive at their destination faster than the standard transit time.
    • Notification services | Shipping companies use delivery notifications to keep customers informed throughout the delivery process. This starts as soon as the carrier receives the order. Once a shipment has been processed, the page will provide a tracking number and estimate your delivery time. Once your freight reaches its final location, you will receive a notification upon its delivery.
    • Limited access | This is a mandatory service for deliveries heading to locations with limited access for carriers, such as construction sites, camps, rural areas, strip malls, gated buildings, etc. Some freight carriers will skip your shipment if limited access is not added to your order when needed. This can result in billing adjustments on your bill of lading.

Benefits Of LTL Shipping

  • Only pay for truck space used | Shipping LTL freight allows you to combine your shipment with other company deliveries. While transporting via LTL, you only pay for a section on a trailer to ship cargo. The portion of the truck you rent is filled with your freight and sent alongside individual loads. Separate shipments get picked up and dropped off before or after your pickup time.
  • Consistent shipments | Shipping less-than-truckload is much faster when getting products to your buyers. With LTL freight, shippers don’t need to wait for their customers to place a bulk order to fill up a full trailer. Choosing LTL shipping means renting only a portion of a truck, so you can essentially send as many shipments as you want when you want.
  • Lower shipping rates | You only have to pay for the space you use when booking an LTL shipment online. The rest of the trailer area is paid for by other shippers for their shipments. Our FreightCenter agents find the best carrier for the needs to move your cargo at the best available rate.
  • Shipment Tracking | Our LTL carriers provide automatic online tracking that will send you updates as your shipment makes its way to the destination. To track your shipment on FreightCenter, use the bill of lading number, PRO number, and PO number.
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Checklist For LTL Shipments

  • What are you shipping?
  • Origin Zip Code
  • Facility Type
  • Can you load the freight?
  • Destination Zip Code
  • Facility Type
  • Can you unload the freight?
  • How is it packaged?
  • How many?
  • Weight
  • Dimensions
  • Find Freight Class
  • Is it stackable?
  • Can this be loaded in a dry van?
  • DISCLOSURES
  • p/u times are requests (may take a couple of days)
  • Transit time is ESTIMATED
  • Paperwork
  • Insurance
  • Billing adjustments (wt at original price/lb)

Packaging To Ship LTL Freight Safely

While shipping via LTL freight, packaging cargo properly is crucial to your shipment while in transit. Packaging for freight can come in a wide array of materials and styles, and the form or package you choose should be decided by the items you are shipping. Your shipment’s size, weight, shape, and durability will determine the type of package(s) you select to keep your cargo safe and make it easier for carriers to transport.

The selected packaging is critical to protecting your items from damage or loss caused by any of these potential circumstances.

Throughout the cargo’s transit from point A to B, shipments move between trucks, carrier hubs, and warehouses before reaching their final destination. This means that during its journey, your shipment is likely to face varied road conditions, temperature fluctuations, additional cargo movement, forklift loads and unloads, and other factors throughout its journey.

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Shipping LTL With FreightCenter

FreightCenter has successfully transported over 400,000 LTL shipments. We combine our innovative transportation management system (TMS) technology to streamline and centralize the freight shipping process. In addition, our shippers have a dedicated freight agent who works with them every step to handle even the most unique shipping needs.

Get the most out of shipping LTL freight by instantly comparing freight rates from top carriers or calling us at 800.716.7608.

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