Your Essential Guide to LTL Basics

Less than truckload shipping (LTL) is the transportation of relatively small freight. LTL carriers rest somewhere between parcel carriers and full truckload carriers. Parcel carriers usually handle small packages and freight that can be broken down into units less than 150 pounds. Full truckload carriers move freight that is loading into a semi. Because a semi is so massive, a very large shipment is required in order to make the cost of transit worth it.

Learning LTL Basics

Freight is collected in one central area from various shippers, sorted at a shipping facility, and then consolidated onto trailers with other shipments headed to the same general geographical area.  When the freight arrives at the final terminal, your items will then be unloaded and transported individually for delivery. Because LTL shipments are smaller they can be easily separated and delivered to a larger number of destinations, whereas a semi is limited. With competent truckload management, you should receive your shipment in perfect condition, on time and without any problems. Click To Tweet

Reduced Costs

The main advantage to using an LTL carrier is that a shipment can be transported for a fraction of the cost of hiring an entire truck and trailer for a partial shipment.  Think of it this way: If you need a plane ticket to New York, would you rather buy 1 ticket, or book the whole plane? LTL freight rates vary based on a number of factors including the type of freight being shipped, the shipment’s dimensions and the distance it will travel. LTL shipping allows multiple shippers to share space on the same truck. While it’s generally the most cost-efficient option, an experienced broker can use rate comparisons to get you the best freight quote.

Proper Packaging

When moving freight sent via LTL carriers, remember that it will likely be handled several times during transit, often by different carriers. It must be packaged properly in order to protect it from scuffing, crushing, shattering, humidity, and condensation. It’s good practice to load freight onto pallets or package items into crates. Since LTL is less than a full truckload, items must be packaged very well to avoid them bumping around.  Proper packaging helps in the following ways:

  • Protects freight from shipping and handling damage.
  • Protects other freight from being damaged by your shipment.
  • Reduces package theft or pilferage.
  • Prevent lost items, wherein some of your freight is separated from the rest and lost.

Reduce Emissions

Combining shipments together via LTL shipping is a cost-effective option for the shipper. In addition, it’s also a more environmentally conscious way to ship. Since LTL shipments allow one truck to carry a full load, rather than multiple trucks carrying loads below their full capacity, there are fewer emissions.

Easy to Track

Supply chain visibility benefits both the customer and the carrier by fostering efficiency.  With tools like GPS tracking and email tracking, the customer can easily track the progress of their shipment. Your freight brokerage works hard to ensure that you are satisfied with the process and informed along the way.

An Efficient Shipping Process

LTL is the ideal shipping method for small businesses and residential customers. Even with all its advantages, LTL comes with its own set of limitations, including longer timelines, delivery issues, and over-handling. An experienced freight broker knows the best practices of LTL and can help you navigate the process and find a solution that will work for your needs.

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