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A Guide To LTL Freight Shipping: Cost-Saving Tips

Shipping is a tricky business. Unless you're shipping to your local neighborhood, you can end up paying more than the cost of shipping by choosing the wrong method. We all love to save money, but it's important to know your options when it comes to shipping. LTL shipping is one of the most common method of shipping and is used by many businesses.  However, shipping is not a one size fits all industry. If you’re considering shipping LTL, there are a few things you need to know, in order to determine the best shipping method for your business and avoid unnecessary costs.

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What Is LTL Freight Shipping? 

LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) shipping refers to the transport of goods which do not require an entire truck trailer, rather they take up a portion of space, thus shippers pay for only the portion used. Usually smaller freight or freight that weighs between 150lbs and 15,000lbs would benefit from using LTL shipping. Shippers, then, tend to share the trailer with various other freight, and there are multiple stops usually along the way to unload each shipper’s goods.

What You Need To Know About LTL Dimensions

The one key aspect to LTL shipping is that fees vary according to density and weight of the shipment. You will need to measure the length, width and height of the shipment, and round up to the next inch. Carriers charge based on weight, volume and density, in order to determine how much freight can fit onto a single trailer.

Freight dimensions determine how much freight can fit on one truck, meaning how many shippers one trailer can carry.  It is essential to be accurate in LTL, because there are multiple shipments which need to fit on one truck, and thus inaccurate measurements can disrupt the process and lead to extra fees.

Cubing a shipment can maximize density and lead to better rates, as higher density items will be easier to handle and transport, thus cost less overall. This means that the key to LTL freight for shippers, is to maximize density and minimize dimensions. Less heavy and less dense shipments would be harder to transport, as they can incur more damage through the trip and thus are more of a risk.

What You Need To Know About LTL Costs

Pricing for LTL freight is subject to change and is rarely constant, because it depends on the shipment dimensions and a number of other factors. Usually LTL freight is priced at a cost per 100lbs, or rate per 100 lbs, alongside other factors to consider in the final rate. There are a number of factors which go into the final price of LTL shipping and they can be grouped into some of the following essential factors:

  • Freight Class: Higher freight class costs more, due to difficulty in transporting and handling, while lower freight class is cheaper. Density is an essential component to this.
  • Distance Driven: Driver salary and fuel will be included on the journey your freight may need to take to its destination, so longer transit times may cost more.
  • Accessorial Charges: Any extra equipment, special handling or special requests will likely incur an accessorial charge from the carrier. It is important to ask upfront what these are. Expedited shipping, irregular types of packages, and fuel costs can be accessorials.
  • Base Rate: Carriers usually have a minimum rate they charge, as a way to ensure they are not losing out on money, so these account for costs upfront.
  • Weight: LTL shipments tend to be priced by every 100lbs, so weight will have an impact.
  • Lanes: Depending on demand, how complicated a route may be or other challenges, certain lanes will cost more, so it is important to consider where the shipment is heading.

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Tips For A Smooth LTL Shipping Process 

Get Familiar With Freight Class

Freight class is an important aspect to consider in LTL shipping, as it affects both rates and the handling of cargo. There are currently 18 different freight classes, and they are reflective of the density and weight of shipments. Lower freight classes are for dense freight that won’t be damaged too easily, while higher freight class reflects lighter and more fragile goods, which are more challenging to move. Higher freight class, naturally, will result in a higher rate for transport.

For a more detailed look into the 18 freight classes, check out: NMFTA Freight Class: understanding NMFC Codes 

Understand That Pallets Are Beneficial

Shipments using LTL will be easier to transport for carriers when they are on pallets, so it is beneficial to use them when possible. It is easier to fit and sort the freight when the goods fit within the pallet and thus you may find rates are better for these types of shipments as well. However, don’t use pallets unless they suit your freight.

Know Your Freight Needs

In order to avoid any surprises, it is important to know whether your goods require special handling or equipment, as these will be charged as accessorials and carriers need to prepare ahead of time. Special temperature requirements or a lift gate, for example, are accessorials which may be needed for some freight. Carriers need to know ahead of time, in order to prepare the equipment and ensure a smooth transport, otherwise delays and issues may occur. This can all be stipulated early on, when you are drawing up a contract with the carrier of your choice.

For a more detailed look into accessorial charges, check out: Understanding Accessorial Fees in Freight Shipping 

Pay Attention to Documents

It is essential that all documents are filled out correctly and that there is an accurate freight class on the documents. Carriers need to be able to smoothly deliver the freight, and may encounter delays and obstacles if the documents are missing or incorrect, which then will lead to accessorial charges. To avoid accessorial charges, it is essential that the BOL is accurate, and consignee knows when to accept the goods, so that carriers are not turned away or delayed.  

Remember that the BOL (Bill of Lading) is an essential documents for LTL shipments especially, as it outlines the consignee details, contract between carrier and shipper, and how shipments should be billed or handled.

When it comes to shipping, you have a variety of different options to choose from. It is essential to remember that different LTL carriers charge based on a variety of factors, and it is beneficial to shop around for the best rate. If  shipments are less than 15,000lbs then considering LTL is valid. Some carriers are able to offer more services than others, so knowing your shipments needs is important. Never sacrifice quality or speed for a cheaper price.