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How Does LTL Shipping Work?


Less-Than-Truckload (LTL)

Less-Than-Truckload is also called LTL. If you are shipping ground domestic in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico you have three options of how to move that freight – small package, LTL. and Truckload (FTL / TL).

Small package is usually under 150 pounds and is shipped by companies like UPS and FedEx. LTL is when you have pallets of freight moving or larger than 150 pounds. Truckload, also called FTL or TL, when you are going to fill a trailer. This driver will drive straight through without any stops to the delivery destination.

Typically what you find in LTL is moving pallets of product. How it works is you make a pickup appointment with a carrier. Then a driver reports to his terminal in the morning at the local terminal with a full trailer of freight from multiple customers and makes all the deliveries. The goal for that driver is that they get all the deliveries done in the morning so that once they are empty they make their pickups and bring them back to the local terminal – these are often called peddle runs.

Now there is an entire night staff striping all the trailers. Now you are going to have what they call linehaul. The staff in the terminal separate the freight based on the doors for each hub, such as PA, Alabama, etc. Now you have the long haul driver in play. The staff will then load a full load of freight for a destination. The long haul driver then drives the miscellaneous shipments to the given areas. When the freight gets dropped at each terminal it is handled at each terminal which is why if it is packed poorly there can be damage to the shipment. The freight can also be put on a rail to get to the next local terminal where they will be picked up by pedal drivers and delivered to its final destination.

Some things to remember: peddle drivers do local pickup and delivery out of their terminal territory. Linehaul drivers come in and drive full loads of miscellaneous shipments to given areas – the LTL breakbulk terminals.

A couple of things you should be thinking about if you are shipping in the Less-Than-Truckload mode:

  1. Cost: The most important is cost – rates and what they mean. View our whiteboard video on base rates, freight classes, and accessorials to understand the different cost elements in LTL freight.
  2. Packaging: LTL shipments get handled more than truckload and can move across different modes. You need to understand the packaging of your product and how it will move. If you are at a complete lost reach out to your carriers for best practices.
  3. Transit times: There are long haul and regional carriers everywhere but their transits are not the same and their service is not the same. You also want to keep in mind conditions and deliveries when looking at transit.

You want to be in a digital environment to measure all of the performance in all of the transit. You then can report on it on the back end. Service first – then price! There are a lot of milestones when moving this freight and you want to measure those key performance metrics.

LTL Negotiations White Paper

Download our LTL NegoTIATIONS WHITE PAPER today

The goal of any Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) negotiation is to source carriers that will provide great service to your freight, your facilities, your customers, and your suppliers at a fair market price.

However, shippers typically run into trouble when negotiating because they lack the information on how it operates.

To help, we’ve created a white paper on the best practices our experts have accumulated over our 30 years in logistics.

In this guide you will learn:

  • The carriers’ operations and needs
  • The freight data to collect
  • Tips and tricks for negotiating