What You Should Know About LTL Shipping

What You Should Know about LTL Shipping

LTL shipping stand for Less-Than-Truckload, meaning that this service of shipping is for freight that will not take up a full 53 ft trailer, hence less than a truckload. LTL is a very common way to ship, and since your freight will share space on a truck with other freight, mean it usually the most economical, but it can come with some drawbacks.

Let’s review the benefits and risks and other options you may have.

As already mentioned, one of the main benefits of LTL shipping is the cost. Again, this has to do with the fact that you are sharing truck space with other freight, so essentially you only pay for the space that you take up. Also, when choosing an economy LTL shipment, you are usually given an estimated transit time range, say 3-5 days. By not asking for a guaranteed delivery date, you give the carrier some flexibility to move the shipment through their network, which reduces your cost.

The next benefit is the number of LTL carrier options available. Although many LTL carriers serve different regions of the country, most have partner carriers that service the areas they don’t. With many options for shippers, there is more competition, which helps the prices to stay competitive.

Next let’s look at the risks of LTL shipping.

Most of the risk with LTL shipping all stem from how LTL freight is moved. When shipping LTL, truck space is shared between multiple shipments, each with different destinations. That means your freight can move around a shipping network to multiple distribution centers before going out for final delivery. With your freight moving from truck to warehouse, then warehouse back to truck and repeating this multiple times, there is increased handling. Freight is usually moved by forklifts, so increase time on a forklift increases the chances of your freight being damaged.

This also takes us to the next possible risk, which is your freight being lost. For the same reasons I already mentioned, when you have multiple distribution centers that a high volume of freight is coming in and out of, there is a chance yours can be lost in the shuffle or loaded on the wrong truck and send off to the wrong location possibly never to return.

In recap, LTL is can be a great option if:

  • Your freight does not need a guaranteed delivery date.
  • Your freight is not in danger of being damaged during transit, for example if you are shipping boxes of bolts or paper.

Otherwise, If your freight is urgent, high-value, or prone to damage you may want to consider more direct shipping services, like air freight or a dedicated vehicle.