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What is LTL Shipping?

What is LTL Shipping? LTL shipping is a less-than-truckload shipping method that has been in practice for over 50 years. In the past, LTL was mainly used by manufacturers and distributors as a way to ship products across the country. Nowadays, it’s also used to deliver goods locally or even internationally. It’s important to know what this type of service entails before you use it so you can make an informed decision on whether or not you need it.

Less than truckload shipping is a process of transporting freight that is fairly small and lightweight. LTL delivery sometimes goes hand in hand with negotiations involving shipment consolidations, competitive rates, or other benefits which are not typically associated with freight that moves through full truckload transport methods.

LTL shipping will fall between the larger Full-truckload (FTL) and parcel shipping. While parcels are typically shipments that fall below 150 pounds, LTL cargo, we are dealing with weights between 150 and 15,000 pounds. FTL, on the other hand, will typically fill up the entire trailer.

One reason many shippers choose to use LTL shipping is because of the reduced transportation costs. It typically means less expensive equipment as well. For example, when a shipper uses LTL, they usually pay for how much space their freight occupies in a regular truck trailer based on weight or cubic measurement (cubic feet).

A wide range of factors goes into LTL shipping rates, which can make it hard to determine if this option makes sense for your needs. Among these factors, we can include:

  • Location. As with most delivery freight rates, the further the distance between the pickup location and destination, the higher an LTL shipping rate will be.
  • Type. Some goods need special handling or special equipment when shipping. This will lead to a higher cost and is often the case with sensitive, fragile, expensive goods like perishables such as food or items that could be hazardous in transport.
  • Dimensions. The dimensions of the freight and the weight of the packages will be used to determine the “freight class” of the cargo. This freight classification will further impact the LTL delivery rate.
  • Mode. When you need expedited shipments, there will typically be an additional fee.

Prevent any costs associated with delays by shipping via less-than-truckload. With LTL shipping, the type of load you ship does not matter and can be a truck or trailer! This option is ideal for all businesses, but particularly those that must be kept on time.

The LTL Hub-and-Spoke Transportation Model

LTL shipping centers on a hub-and-spoke model, where the larger centralized terminals (distribution centers) serve as hubs and smaller local terminals represent the spokes. The carrier will pick up the shipment from its pickup location, deliver it to the local terminal in that area, where it is consolidated with other shipments.

From this distribution center, the LTL shipment travels to the other centralized terminal that covers the final destination’s area. From here, it is unloaded onto a smaller truck, where it is sent to either a smaller local terminal or directly to its final destination.

This often comes in comparison to the FTL Point-to-Point distribution model. As its name suggests, this model takes a more straightforward approach, picking up the shipment at its point of origin and driving it directly to its final destination.

Shippers often have to decide whether or not they should use a less-than-truckload (LTL) shipment or parcel delivery. LTL shipments cover freight weight between 150 and 15,000 pounds but are cheaper than the more expensive full truckload (FTL) – especially if not shipping enough cargo to fill out an entire truck trailer. Shippers who don’t need an FTL service can take advantage of the benefits that less-than-truckload can provide.

What Are The Special LTL Shipping Services?

Depending on the shipper’s exact needs, the LTL shipment can be a variety of additional services that fall under the umbrella term of “white glove.” Among these services, we can include:

  • Limited access – If you’re concerned about the location of your delivery, LTL shipping may be necessary. This way, your transportation partner will be able to prepare and make sure all conditions are met before any deliveries can go through.
  • Expedited – If you need your goods to arrive quickly, you can request an expedited quote from the transport company.
  • Indoor pickup or delivery – When the carrier needs to go inside the building to pick up and/or drop off the cargo.
  • Liftgate – This shipping service is typically for heavier freight, and the destination point does not have a functional dock for the load to be moved straight from the truck. In this case, the truck will be fitted with a lift gate.

The Benefits of LTL Freight Shipping

LTL is an ideal choice for shipping freight that’s too small to fit in an entire trailer or too large to be transported via parcel delivery. Additionally, there are several benefits of shipping with less than truckload. Among these, we can include:

  • Shipment Consolidations – This means that you are able to break your order up into different shipments. For example, if you are shipping to an international destination and your cargo is too large for parcel delivery but not big enough to fill a whole truck, LTL can be used as the perfect middle ground.
  • Faster Transit Time – When the cargo is consolidated into one truck, it will be delivered more quickly than if it  was placed on multiple trucks or sent via parcel post. With LTL shipping, shippers don’t have to wait for their clients to place enough orders to fill up an entire truck. Choosing this option means you are renting only a portion of a truck and can send as many freight shipments as you want whenever you want.
  • Better Shipping Rates – With LTL freight, there are more ways in which shippers can ship their goods at rates that suit them best than with other types of shipment methods such as FTL or parcel post (including rail). LTL carriers offer more flexible pricing than FTL freight. The larger shipment size allows for greater shipping savings over parcel post when compared to individual shipments or small packages sent via parcel post. Shippers can also save money by negotiating rates and costs with the carrier on an LTL shipment.
  • Shipment Security – LTL shipping can help increase freight security by providing more visibility to the location and status of goods being transported. When all of your goods are delivered to a professional LTL shipper, they will guarantee that you don’t have to worry about them.
  • Not Paying for Unused Trailer Space – LTL shipping allows you to combine your shipment with other deliveries and, essentially, rent only a portion of the truck that is filled with your freight. This is a great way to save money without having to adjust your logistics.
  • Lower Warehouse Costs – Through LTL shipping, you can send more shipments. There is no longer the need to stack up as many products at once to get the most out of FTL. Not only does LTL reduce your warehouse needs, but it also produces savings every month for your business.
  • Environmentally Friendly – Sharing truck space with other shippers will significantly reduce the negative impact on the environment and help maintain a healthy planet.
  • Professional Expertise – Small businesses often don’t have a dedicated in-house shipping department to cover all their needs. LTL shipping can be very beneficial to small companies because of the logistics professionals that are assigned to manage less than truckload shipments. This, in turn, can help companies take advantage of the tools, technologies, and best practices of these professionals.
  • Extra Services – Frequently, LTL shipping provides additional services like those mentioned previously, in the form of the liftgate, indoor pickup and delivery, expedited shipping, residential pickups, and more.

Several LTL Freight Shipping Best Practices

Several things need to be taken into consideration when preparing LTL shipments for transportation.

In terms of the cargo dimensions, it’s best to round up to the next inch or two. This applies to the length, height, and width of the shipment freight.

You will want to know the exact dimensions of your shipment for your shipping company to make the most use out of their truck capacity– and also so you can avoid excess fees.

You will need to complete a “bill of lading” for the shipping process to commence. This is a document that’s also a receipt for the products that are being shipped. The bill of lading should be as complete and accurate as possible to avoid any potential issues down the line.

When it comes to packaging and labeling, businesses should ensure that the cargo is adequately prepared for transit. This includes labels and stickers identifying the package contents, properly-sized packaging materials (and tape), and so on. The cargo should be loaded onto pallets to condense the truck space by as much as possible.

Another factor that needs to be considered when it comes to LTL best practices is the use of dedicated less than truckload freight carriers. This ensures that the cargo is not mixed with other shipments and helps increase shipment security by preventing unauthorized access to goods as they move along the LTL shipping process.

If you need help or want to be more cost-efficient, RedBird Logistics offers a range of logistic services – from simple LTL to personally tailored solutions. You can rest assured that they will ensure that your logistics processes are running smoothly and as efficiently as possible.

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