Are you an individual who needs to ship freight that’s less-than-truckload (LTL)? Do you work for a company that regularly uses LTL freight to meet your business needs? However, you’re utilizing LTL shipping, learning the nuances of this shipment mode will help you save money and help you make educated decisions when it comes time to ship.

What is LTL shipping?

Let’s start with the basics. When you have freight to ship that doesn’t require or fill a full truckload, it’s known as less-than-truckload or LTL shipping. This method is typically used for freight that weighs between 150 and 15,000 pounds. The advantage of using LTL shipping is that as a shipper, you’ll only pay for a portion of the truck’s cost — the other shippers will also pay a part of the truck’s cost — so, it can be more affordable than shipping alternatives.

Why use LTL shipping?

There are many benefits to using LTL shipping services.

  1. It’s cost-effective. When your freight shares a truck, you only pay for the space occupied by your freight. The remaining cost is covered by the other occupants shipping within the same trailer.
  2. Enhanced tracking. Utilizing the tracking numbers provided by the carrier, you can view/receive real-time updates regarding your shipments. Whether it be ETAs, updates, notes, etc, we’ve got you covered! Transportation Management Systems (TMS) are also fully integrated with the carrier(s), allowing shippers to consolidate their work orders and trace shipments with any carrier, without even leaving the TMS.
  3. Diversified carrier portfolio. Rather than being stuck with 1 carrier, shipping LTL allows you access to a wide variety of carriers, specializing in a range of services and lanes. Whether you ship regionally, or nationwide, there is a carrier who will meet your shipping expectations.
  4. Access to additional service options. By sending your freight LTL, you typically have access to specialized services such as liftgates and indoor pickup and delivery. Guarantee/Expedited options are also available for your time-sensitive shipments!

Tips for LTL newbies

Now that we’ve covered the what and the why…let’s get to the how. There are several things to keep in mind when shipping LTL freight to help you maximize value and save money, time, and headaches — like having to file claims — by shipping your freight LTL-style.

Tip #1: Provide accurate shipping information on the bill of lading (BOL)

We talk about the BOL A LOT. Why? Because this legal document is the most critical part of your shipping invoice that you need to get right. It’s not only a receipt for the freight that you’re shipping, but it also contains all of the necessary details and information about the shipment. Get it right the first time, and it will save you oodles of time and stress down the line.

Tip #2: Get familiar with freight classes

All LTL shipments are based on a standard freight classification system, so it’s essential to know and understand what each of the 18 freight classes is and what class your freight falls into. The lower classes are used for dense freight that can be handled easily and is less susceptible to damage. The higher classes represent shipments that are more difficult to move and typically higher in value; they’re likely more fragile, and less dense. We talked in-depth about freight classification in a recent blog — check it out here to learn more.

Tip #3: Package your freight correctly — use pallets if you can

It’s important to consider packaging when preparing your shipment. If possible, palletizing your freight will significantly reduce the chances that it gets damaged.

Tip #4: Determine your accessorial needs ahead of time

Nobody likes surprises when it comes to receiving bills. If you can plan ahead to prevent any extra charges that you might incur in your shipment — such as over-length freight, re-weigh/re-class fees, limited access charges, liftgates due to the shipper/receiver not having a dock. — you’ll save time and energy later on in the shipping process. Always know your freight and the location you are shipping to!

Tip #5: Prepare for the final LTL cost

A few factors will influence the final cost of shipping your freight LTL, and it’s always best to prepare for these costs ahead of time:

  • Freight class
  • Base rates
  • Accessorial charges
  • Distance
  • Weight
  • Minimums

If you’re a newbie shipping in the LTL industry and have any questions or would like more information about how to prepare your LTL shipment, what costs may be incurred, or how you can best prepare for your LTL shipment, don’t hesitate to contact us at 855.218.7LTL (7585).