The In and Outs of Less Than Truckload Shipping or LTL Your Way Part 1

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Part 1

The Importance Of Less Than Truckload Knowledge aka LTL Your Way
This will be a multi-part post relating to shipping LTL freight. Please bookmark this blog and stay tuned.

Less than truckload shipping or less than load (LTL) is the transportation of relatively small freight.
The alternatives to LTL carriers are parcel carriers or full truckload carriers. Parcel carriers usually handle small packages and freight that can be broken down into units less than 150 pounds (68kg). Full truckload carriers move freight that is loaded into a semi-trailer. Semi-trailers are typically between 26 and 53 feet (7.92 and 16.15m) and require a substantial amount of freight to make such transportation economical.

LTL carrier operations versus full truckload operations.
There are several different perspectives as to what is actually considered LTL. Full Truck Load carriers can put anywhere from 2 to 6 different people’s shipments on a trailer and since each  shipment is technically “less than a truckload” they would consider that to be LTL. There are also freight companies who do not specialize in truck loads, but rather, consolidate larger volume shipments from about 2 to 12 pallets (or about 4000 to 24000 pounds) and consider themselves LTL Carriers. Finally, the most commonly referenced LTL is shipped via “common” carriers who handle freight above what would normally ship via FedEx Ground, or UPS or U.S. Mail parcel services (about 150 pounds) to just under what would usually be considered a Truck Load, at about 20,000 pounds or more than 14 pallets. LTL common carriers are also more likely to accept loose (non-palletized) cargo than the other two. LTL shipments typically weigh between 151 and 20,000lb (68 and 9,072kg).

Less than Truckload carriers use “hub and spoke” operations where small local terminals are the spokes (‘end of line’), and larger more central terminals are the hubs (also called Distribution Centers or DC’s). Spoke terminals collect local freight from various shippers and consolidate that freight onto enclosed trailers for transporting to the delivering or hub terminal, where the freight will be further sorted and consolidated for additional transporting (also known as linehauling). In most cases, the end of line terminals employ local drivers who start the day by loading up their trailers and heading out to make deliveries first. When the trailer is empty, they begin making pickups and return to the terminal for sorting and delivery next day. Because of the efficiency of this order of operations, most deliveries are performed in the morning and pickups are made in the afternoon.

Pickup/delivery drivers usually have set casual routes which they travel every day or several times a week, so the driver has an opportunity to develop a rapport with their customers. Once the driver has filled their trailer or completed their assigned route, they return to their terminal for unloading. The trailer is unloaded and the individual shipments are then weighed and inspected to verify their conformity to the description contained in the accompanying paperwork. All LTL freight is subject to inspection (‘S.T.I.’), though not all freight is inspected. Next, the freight is loaded onto an outbound trailer which will forward the freight to a breakbulk, a connection, or to the delivering terminal. An LTL shipment may be handled only once while in transit, or it may be handled multiple times before final delivery is accomplished.

Transit times for LTL freight are longer than for full truckload freight (FTL). LTL transit times are not directly related only to the distance between shipper and consignee. Instead, LTL transit times are also dependent upon the makeup of the network of terminals and breakbulks that are operated by a given carrier and that carrier’s beyond agents and interline partners. For example, if a shipment is picked up and delivered by the same freight terminal, or if the freight must be sorted and routed only once while in transit, the freight will likely be delivered on the next business day after pickup. If the freight must be sorted and routed more than once, or if more than one linehaul is required for transportation to the delivering terminal, then the transit time will be longer. In some instances, the LTL freight has up to 10 days of delivery time frame. Also, delivery to beyond points or remote areas will almost always add days to the transit time.

The main advantage to using an LTL carrier is that a shipment may be transported for a fraction of the cost of hiring an entire truck and trailer for an exclusive shipment. Also, a number of accessory services are available from LTL carriers, which are not typically offered by FTL carriers. These optional services include liftgate service at pickup or delivery, residential (also known as “non-commercial”) service at pickup or delivery, inside delivery, notification prior to delivery, freeze protection, and others. These services are usually billed at a predetermined flat fee, or for a weight based surcharge calculated as a rate per pound or per hundredweight.

Jameson Logistics has been the go to company by hundreds of companies for the best service and rates in the LTL arena. Call Jameson Logistics today for all of your LTL needs.

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