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What does Less Than Truckload (LTL) mean infreight shipping?

Less than a truckload, often abbreviated as LTL, is a term frequently used in the logistics and transportation industry. LTL is a cost-effective and efficient shipping option to transport goods that do not require an entire truck.

Less than truckload freight (LTL), is a type of freight shipping where the cargo does not use up the entire space of a truck. Instead, the truck carries shipments from multiple customers, with each customer’s goods often weighing between 150 and 15,000 pounds. Each shipper’s cargo may take up a few pallets, crates, or large parcels, and they only pay for the portion of the truck space that their freight occupies. The rest of the truck is filled with other customers’ freight. This is different from FTL (Full Truckload) shipping, where one shipper rents the entire truck for their cargo.

Pros and cons of LTL

Like every shipping method, LTL shipping has its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of LTL:

  1. Cost-effectiveness: LTL shipping is an economical option for those who don’t have enough cargo to fill an entire truck. As the transportation cost is shared among different shippers, smaller businesses can afford to ship their goods without worrying about filling an entire truckload.
  2. Flexibility: LTL freight offers flexibility that is often lacking in other types of shipping. You can send smaller quantities of goods more frequently, which can help manage inventory more effectively.
  3. Additional services: LTL carriers often provide value-added services like liftgate service at pickup and delivery, residential service, inside pickup and delivery, and notification options. These services, while available with FTL, often come at a premium cost.
  4. Environmentally friendly: By consolidating shipments from multiple customers into one truck, LTL shipping can reduce the number of trucks on the road and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Cons of LTL:

  1. Potential for damage: Since LTL shipments are often handled multiple times during transit, there’s a slightly higher risk of goods getting damaged. Each time a shipment is loaded onto a truck, there’s a chance for mishandling or accidents.
  2. Longer transit times: LTL shipping often involves multiple stops to pick up and deliver cargo, which can result in longer transit times compared to FTL shipping. This may not be ideal for time-sensitive shipments.
  3. Complex pricing: The pricing structure for LTL shipping can be complex, as it’s based on several factors, including weight, distance, freight class, and additional services. This complexity can make it difficult for shippers to accurately predict their shipping costs.
  4. Limited capacity: During peak shipping seasons, capacity for LTL shipping can be limited, and shippers may face delays or increased costs.

By understanding these pros and cons, businesses can make informed decisions about whether LTL shipping is the right choice for their needs.

How does LTL work?

The process of less than truckload (LTL) shipping might seem complex at first glance, but it can be broken down into several key steps: requesting quotes and booking shipments, packaging and preparing LTL shipments, the pickup and transit of LTL shipments, the delivery of LTL shipments, and finally, tracking LTL shipments.

Requesting quotes and booking shipments

The first step in the LTL shipping process is to request quotes from different LTL carriers. The quote is based on factors such as the weight of the shipment, the freight class, and the distance the shipment will travel. Once you compare the quotes and select the most suitable carrier for your needs, you can proceed to book the shipment.

Packaging and preparing LTL shipments

Proper packaging is crucial in LTL shipping to protect your goods from damage during transit. Due to the nature of LTL shipping, your goods may be loaded and unloaded multiple times along their journey, so they should be packaged securely to withstand this process. This often involves using sturdy boxes, palletizing goods, and using sufficient cushioning material. It’s best that LTL shipments be shipped on a pallet.

Pickup and transit of LTL shipments

Once your shipment is properly packaged and prepared, it is ready for pickup. The LTL carrier will pick up the shipment from your location and transport it to a terminal. At the terminal, your shipment is sorted and consolidated with other shipments going in the same direction. It’s then loaded onto another truck for the next leg of the journey. This process may be repeated several times until the shipment reaches its destination region.

Delivery of LTL shipments

When the shipment reaches the destination region, it’s loaded onto a local delivery truck. The local delivery truck makes multiple stops at different delivery points, including your shipment’s final destination.

Tracking LTL shipments

To help you keep track of your shipment throughout this process, most LTL carriers offer tracking services. By using the tracking number provided by the carrier, you can monitor the progress of your shipment online. This tracking service provides peace of mind and allows you to plan accordingly for the arrival of your goods.

LTL shipping is a multi-step process that involves careful planning and coordination. From requesting quotes and booking shipments to packaging, pickup, transit, and delivery, each step plays a vital role in ensuring your shipment reaches its destination safely and on time.

How are LTL rates calculated?

Several factors determine the rates for LTL freight. The primary elements include the distance of the shipment, the weight, and the freight class (determined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association). Uber Freight’s density calculator can help you calculate freight density and estimate the NMFC freight class. Additional services, like residential pickup or delivery, liftgate service, and inside delivery, can also affect the final price. Understanding these factors can help you predict your shipping costs more accurately.

LTL vs FTL freight

The decision between LTL and full truckload (FTL) shipping depends on the specific needs of the shipper. FTL shipping is typically faster and less likely to result in damaged goods, as the shipment remains in the same truck throughout the entire journey. However, it is also more expensive, particularly for shippers who do not have enough goods to fill an entire truck.

On the other hand, LTL is more cost-effective for smaller shipments, though it may take longer and carry a slightly higher risk of damage due to the frequent handling of goods.

Choosing an LTL carrier

When it comes to selecting an LTL carrier, there are several things to consider. First, look at the carrier’s network. Do they service the areas where you need to ship? Also, consider the carrier’s reputation. Look for reviews or ask for references. Finally, consider their rates and additional services. Does the carrier offer a competitive price and the services you need?

LTL freight shipping with Uber Freight

Uber Freight’s LTL solution offers shippers a simple and flexible way to move loads, reduce freight costs, and create, view, and pay for shipments all from one single platform.  Shippers can also receive instant LTL quotes from our deep network of third-party carriers with transparent pricing.  Sign up today to get a quote.

More resources for LTL:

LTL Freight Shipping – Get an Instant Quote

Seven tips to handling the LTL freight demand

LTL trends and challenges: Density-based pricing

Uber Freight enhances less than truckload (LTL) capabilities

Uber Freight less-than-truckload (LTL) empowers SMBs to do more

Cross-border less than truckload