When you’re running a growing business, you may find yourself in something of a shipping conundrum. You need to send a shipment that’s too large to go through traditional shipping routes.
But it’s also not big enough to warrant renting out a full truck just to carry your shipment.
LTL freight shipping can be a great way to bridge that gap between standard shipping methods and renting a full truck. Read on to learn more about this shipping method and how it can save your company money.
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What is LTL Shipping?
Less-than-truckload freight shipping, also known as LTL freight shipping, is useful when a shipment doesn’t require the use of an entire trailer.
Instead of having to rent the entire trailer, a business owner can split the cost of the truck with other business owners who have small shipments to send. Think of this as ridesharing for shipments.
In general, LTL shipping is used for loads weighing between 150 and 15,000 pounds. The separate shipments are loaded onto pallets and labeled and organized in the truck so the driver can keep them separate.
Carriers who offer LTL shipping have their load optimization down to a science to deliver the best results for their customers.
How Does it Work?
In a normal full-truckload shipment, a driver will only make two stops: the origin and the destination. But because an LTL truck is carrying loads from multiple vendors, it has to stop off at multiple delivery locations. The arrangement of the truck will be optimized based in part on which shipments get delivered first on the driver’s route.
The costs of LTL shipping can vary widely depending on the nature of your shipment.
Shipping companies may charge based on how much space your shipment takes up in the truck, as well as what sort of items you’re shipping. You’ll also likely pay different fees based on where you need your items picked up and dropped off.
One of the primary benefits of LTL shipping is that it can help business owners to reduce their shipping costs. Traditional shipping can be very expensive, and you may feel like you’re throwing away money when you rent an entire truck for a small shipment.
This can get especially expensive if your business model requires you to send smaller, more frequent shipments.
LTL shipping only requires that you rent the space you need in a truck, rather than the whole truck. This can save you enormous amounts on shipping costs and increase your profit margins.
For a small business looking for opportunities to grow, this can allow you to consider new areas of expansion that would otherwise be impossible.
When you send a shipment of any sort, you want to be sure that it’s going to be handled well when it arrives. Goods that show up broken or destroyed are just a cost liability for your company. LTL shipping can provide you better security for your goods so you can be sure they’ll show up in good condition.
When items are shipped in boxes, they’re likely to get thrown and jostled around inside a truck.
But because LTL shipping uses pallets, you don’t have to worry about this kind of damage. The pallet will be loaded onto the truck with a jack or forklift and then unloaded at your destination, with no throwing or jostling involved.
Get Additional Service Options
Once you start getting into the logistics of shipping goods, you’ll discover that the transportation aspect is only the beginning of your shipping needs. There are other services you may also need during your shipment process. These can include inside pickup and delivery, liftgates, and other services that make it easier for you and your customers to handle shipments.
Traditional shipment providers usually do not offer these services, preferring to leave boxes at the door and move on. But because LTL providers work with palletized shipments, you should be able to get access to these services.
You may have to pay a little extra to get this additional care, or your provider may include it as part of your overall costs.
Tracking is one of the most important modern innovations in the shipping industry. Now you don’t have to wait around and wonder when – or if – a shipment will arrive at its destination. You can keep up with it every step of the way and see if it stalls out at one location or gets dropped off a mountain in Timbuktu.
Some full truckload shippers don’t offer tracking information, since delivery will depend on their driver’s schedule. But many LTL shipping providers offer a full range of tracking services through the bill of lading number.
You may also be able to track your shipment by PO number, PRO number, pick-up date range, and shipment reference number.
Save the Environment
In a world that’s seeing more destructive natural disasters than ever, environmental preservation has become a hot-button issue. We understand that we all need to do our bit to reduce fossil fuel use and pollution. And unfortunately, if the shipping industry were a country, it would be the sixth-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.
When you use LTL shipping, you help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere. By sharing truck space with other business owners, you reduce the number of trucks running shipments on the road. This kind of efficiency can help to reduce your business’s carbon footprint and preserve our planet.
When to Choose LTL Shipping
Although LTL shipping is an amazing option, like anything else, it has its time and place. You should opt for LTL shipping when you need to move a smaller shipment that will meet the weight and space limits. This is also a good option for businesses that are looking for cost-effective ways to expand their shipping opportunities.
It’s also best to use LTL shipping when speed is not the most important factor. Because LTL shipping works with several different companies in one shipment, there will be more stops and perhaps a less direct route. This means that your shipment may take a little longer to get to its destination than it would on a full truckload shipment.
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Factors That Determine Shipping Rates
There are a few different factors that will impact how much you pay for LTL shipping. Two of the biggest will be the size of your shipment and the distance you need to ship it.
Parcels that are larger and which are going longer distances are going to cost more to ship than smaller shipments that don’t have as far to go.
In some cases, you may want to use LTL shipping, but you need your shipment to move a little faster than standard LTL rates. You can expedite your shipment, but it’s going to increase your rate. And a shipment that requires special handling, such as one that contains fragile or perishable items, will be more expensive.
Preparing LTL Shipments
There are a few tips and tricks that will help you prepare your LTL shipments more effectively. First of all, when you’re measuring your shipment, you may be tempted to round down to save money. But your carrier will charge you adjustment fees if you don’t give them an accurate measurement, so always round up to the next inch.
You should always make sure you complete your bill of lading as accurately as possible when you’re preparing a shipment. This document will act as a receipt for your goods and making sure it’s as accurate as possible can help prevent problems with your shipment. Finally, when you palletize your goods, make sure to place heavier items on the bottom and affix a label to the side.
Pitfalls to Avoid
The first major LTL shipping pitfall to avoid is not palletizing your goods. Loading your shipment onto a pallet may seem like an unnecessary extra step, but it really is the best way to ensure everything arrives safe and unbroken. Many LTL carriers will also refuse to take your goods if they are not on a pallet.
You also need to remember that an estimated delivery date is not a guarantee in LTL shipping. There may be delays at any point along the route, and unless you pay extra for it, you will not get a delivery date guarantee.
Plan accordingly, and give your shipments a few extra days between when they’re estimated to arrive and when they’ll need them at the end location.
You should also always insure your LTL shipments or make sure your LTL carrier provides insurance. No matter how safely you package your shipment or how good the reputation of the carrier, accidents happen. You don’t want to get stuck holding the bill for an entire shipment because roads were icy or another driver was distracted.
Use a Transportation Management System
There are also a few best practices you can follow to ensure you get the most out of your LTL shipping services. For one thing, your company should set up and use a transportation management system. These systems look at your overall shipping needs and use smart software to help you optimize those shipments.
A transportation management system will examine every shipment you need to send out and analyze it for weight, size, and speed requirements. Then it will check nearby routes to find the most effective LTL for you to work with. You can also compare rates among different carriers to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
Work With Consolidators
While a transportation management system can help you optimize LTL shipments on your end, it can only do so much. You’ll need to work with a consolidator to help get your shipment on the best truck to meet your needs.
These warehouses bring in shipments from a variety of different companies and figure out the best way to get them all to their destinations.
Consolidators take on the daunting task of examining destination locations, timing requirements, space requirements, handling requirements, and other such factors for dozens of other companies. They then use this data to group shipments together into full truckloads. Working with a consolidator can help you ensure your shipments get the care and prioritization they need.
Provide Accurate Information
From your bill of lading to your shipment measurements, it’s incredibly important that you provide accurate information about your shipments. Both of the systems we just described only work if they have correct information about every shipment they handle. In some cases, a company underestimating the size of their shipment by just an inch or two can throw off an entire truckload plan and cause delays for all the shipments it was going to carry.
Make sure you measure your shipment carefully and report its size as accurately as possible.
Take careful notes about every single item that goes into a shipment and whether it requires any special handling. This way your LTL shipping provider and your consolidator can get your shipment where it needs to go with as few complications as possible.
Discover the Benefits of LTL Freight Shipping
LTL freight shipping can be a great way to save money and make the shipping process more efficient. You can share space on a truck with other companies and get your goods to their destination with less expense.
Make sure you always document your shipment properly, palletize your goods, and make sure you get insurance to cover your shipment.
If you’d like to discover more resources to help you optimize your shipping, check out the rest of our site at Warehouse IQ. We are a place for hard hat-wearing experts in the industry to share their knowledge. Check out our calculators today to start making your next shipment more accurate and cost-effective.
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