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What Factors Affect Less-than-Load Freight Rates?

What Factors Affect Less-than-Load Freight Rates?

Learn the key factors influencing LTL freight rates. Understand how weight, density, distance, accessorials, and market fluctuations affect your shipping costs.

One of the most common questions in freight shipping is: what factors affect LTL freight rates? Controlling and managing freight is a huge part of your business. Freight shipping is complex, and shippers like you may have many questions. Knowing the answers to these questions allows you to develop a better business strategy while saving time and money. We’ll dive into what factors affect less-than-load freight rates so you can control your costs when shipping LTL freight.

Weight, Density, and Freight Class


LTL is different than a parcel. The package weight and transit distance typically determine the shipping cost if you’re shipping via a parcel carrier. However, LTL freight rates work differently. In LTL, three universally interconnected factors affect what your LTL freight rate will be. Those factors are:

How These Factors Affect Your LTL Freight Rates

The weight of your shipment impacts the shipment’s density. In turn, this dictates what freight class your freight will be.

LTL freight carriers use freight class to make determining shipping rates for certain kinds of freight easier. Many shippers find it hard to accurately report freight class on their Bill of Lading (BOL) or while filling out an LTL freight quote. This can result in a rather large billing adjustment when the carrier checks the shipment’s weight, density, and freight class—any discrepancies between the original quote and what the carrier reports will result in a billing adjustment.

You can avoid costly billing adjustments by providing accurate information when contacting a third-party logistics (3PL) company. A 3PL offers guidance and support and can help you better centralize your search. Your dedicated shipping agent will have the expertise to find you the appropriate freight class. If you want to see your shipment’s density independently, use our freight class calculator tool.


Across the shipping spectrum, distance always plays a role in determining shipping rates. The shipper should provide the origin and destination zip codes to calculate the spread between pickup and drop-off. However, in LTL, freight shipping, it’s a bit different. Firstly, the freight carrier you use may limit where it can travel.

For example, regional carriers will not be available for a shipment traveling from Florida to Idaho. Depending on your LTL carrier, your shipment may have to go through an additional carrier or truck during transit.

Other factors also affect LTL freight rates. Carriers must fulfill capacity and efficiently use all the space in their trailers. Carriers may charge differently on specific lanes depending on supply and demand to meet capacity. This is because they have to account for solving capacity issues regarding deadhead, backhaul, and head haul.

Partnering with a 3PL can streamline the search for the carrier and lane that best suits your shipping needs at more affordable rates than going directly through the carriers. You can compare the rates of multiple carriers simultaneously when you work with a 3PL such as FreightCenter.

What Factors Affect less-than-load Freight Rates

Specialty Services That Affect LTL Freight Rates


Accessorials are additional services beyond the traditional pickup and delivery services offered by LTL freight carriers. Accessorials play a big part in the operating procedure for you and the carrier involved. Depending on your freight shipment needs, some accessorials could be required; others may be optional.

For example, you are considered a residential location if you run your business from home. Therefore, you must choose the residential and liftgate accessorials during the shipment booking. You may also need other accessorials, such as expedited shipping or a shipment picked up from a limited-access location. Regardless of any added services you may need, you must communicate with your FreightCenter agent beforehand.

Not knowing about accessorials or when you need them can lead to logistical mayhem. Expensive billing adjustments or canceled pickups and deliveries are prime examples.

Market Factors


All the factors that affect the LTL freight rate discussed have been significant. These can be controlled and incorporated into your supply chain’s best practices and procedures. However, there are factors outside of most shippers’ control that affect freight rates. Shifting trends within the freight shipping industry or fluctuating market behaviors from other industries heavily rely on freight shipping.

As mentioned before, carriers have to fulfill capacity on their end. This means efficiently filling space on their trailers in every lane and transit their trucks travel. The supply and demand carriers face greatly dictate rates. When carriers deal with scarce supply, rates are more competitive and lower. When carriers have a lot of shipments to move, space becomes more deficient for shippers, so rates are higher.

Industries that rely heavily on freight shipping impact freight rates when they get busier. For example, the produce industry in the spring and summer drives demand for freight shipping up after a slow first quarter of the year. These shifting trends and economic conditions throughout the year are known as the four seasons of freight shipping. Knowing what to prepare for months in advance can help you control costs and better manage your budget.

The Biggest Factor


Regarding factors that affect LTL freight rate, the most important one is whether or not you’re partnering with a 3PL company like FreightCenter. To get the best freight rates, you’ll need a partner who can guide you through every step, understand your shipping needs, and find the best solutions quickly and at more affordable rates.

FreightCenter leverages an extensive network of carriers and shipping partners and receives discounted rates which are then passed on to shippers. Have a dedicated agent handle your shipping needs. If you want an over-the-phone quote or assistance, call 800.716.7608 and experience the FreightCenter difference.

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