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The LTL industry is without a doubt one of the main causes of frustration among shippers. But like any industry, the stress is usually just a symptom of a lack of knowledge.
Now, this is not to assume or to suggest that shippers are not capable of doing a little light research. On the contrary, that very same research is probably actually adding to the stress! This is because there is a lot of information floating around on the internet about the LTL industry. Some of it good, some of it bad, all of it requires a very discerning eye. And as with most things these days, people are quick to search Google for the information they are looking for.
It's for this reason that many shippers simply opt to partner with 3rd-party logistics companies. After all, a well-rounded 3PL specializes in the logistics space. They work with carriers that are trusted and offer several unique modes of transportation. This, in turn, allows them to provide more robust and affordable shipping services on behalf of their clients. Additionally, partnering with experts in the field saves shippers a good amount of time otherwise spent browsing Google for inaccurate information.
A 3PL's complete understanding of the LTL industry allows them to seamlessly schedule shipments, track them, review their invoices, and make corrections as needed. They can even submit payments on behalf of their clients in most cases. The best part is that most 3PL's maintain exceptional relationships with each of their LTL carriers through long-term partnerships. This allows them to secure exceptional rates – which trickle down to their clients.
However, as with all things, the LTL industry can be intimidating to new shippers or those who have never needed to make use of it before now. So, we've gone ahead and put together a few insider tips to help you navigate the LTL shipping process.
For those who may not know, LTL is designed for shippers who need to move more than 150-pounds worth of products but do not have enough to fill a full truckload. The idea behind this shipping mode is that the shipper is only responsible for paying for the exact dimensions they occupy in the shipping container. When dealing with FTL or any other shipping mode, the shipper is generally responsible for paying for all the unused space as well.
When you schedule an LTL shipment, the carrier arrives and loads your goods onto the truck. Your freight will share space with goods from other companies in this truck. The carrier follows a dedicated route in order to drop off each companies freight one at a time at their respective destinations. Once the freight arrives at the freight terminal, it is offloaded from the truck. It is then separated and loaded onto individual containers headed for the states noted on the bill of lading.
The trade-off here is that while LTL shipping can save shippers money, their goods will also make more stops. Not only that but every time the carrier stops to offload goods, all the other freight generally must be rearranged. This means that your freight will probably move slower and be more at risk of damage due to heavy handling. Ultimately, this is just where partnering with reputable 3PLs and experienced carriers comes into play.
Here are a few important questions that you should ask to determine whether LTL shipping is the best route for you...
There are some LTL carriers that operate geographically – meaning they only specialize in local shipping within a 200-mile radius. If you are shipping a pallet or item above 150-pounds to a customer within 200 or so miles, it might be best to work with a local LTL carrier as opposed to a larger, nationwide carrier. If working with a 3PL, they will more than likely point this out as well.
It is important for a shipper to determine how quickly the shipment needs to be received by the customer. There are carriers that are just plain better at expediting shipments than others, without inflating the cost. Knowing the difference between a good value and a bad deal on LTL shipping can save you a lot of time, stress, and money in the long-run. This is especially true when trying to uphold service commitments.
Another important factor to consider is the size of your shipment. There are several LTL carriers who offer freight discounts for shipments of a certain size. This is considered the filler, where an LTL route is looking for freight of a specific size to maximize its load capacity or ensure the delivery goes out with the maximum stops available.
Competition in the LTL space is incredibly tight these days! This is primarily due to a driver shortage that is continuing throughout the logistics industry. The LTL industry is amongst the most impacted because quite frankly, many CDL drivers just don't like to work the LTL industry. No, this isn't something that is limited to LTL shipping, it is indeed an industry-wide problem but just happens to be most prevalent in LTL.
For this reason, among many others, it is important for shippers to maintain a pool of qualified LTL carriers that are ready to get on the road. But the trick is knowing how to qualify a potential LTL carrier.
Here are a few extra insider tips for you...
In the logistics industry, bandwidth makes all the difference!
Bandwidth here is defined as having a lot of trucks and a lot of drivers available to the carrier. The more accurate definition would be to determine what resources and skills they have available right now. Are they equipped with their own tools? What do their standard procedures look like? Do they belong to a network? Do they have a good rapport with others in the LTL industry?
Feel them out and don't be scared to ask questions. Understanding how any given carrier operates will help you to better determine whether or not they will be a good fit for your business. After all, it is your money that is paying them to do it!
If you are a manufacturer of frozen foods, it's quite possible that the majority of LTL shipping you do requires cold storage. It makes sense to seek out LTL carriers who specialize in this industry and can comply with shipping regulations for the safe movement of cold storage commodities.
However, this tip holds up, regardless of the type of industry you serve. Any freight that you move that requires special handling... research your carrier thoroughly beforehand. We cannot stress this simple yet overlooked consideration enough.
This goes double for LTL shipments!
If you have a company that requires LTL shipping, working with a third-party logistics company to handle all your LTL freight needs can significantly reduce stress, and ensure you are always using the right carrier.
A professional 3PL such as Redwood Logistics has the experience and bandwidth any shipper could possibly need. Furthermore, we maintain relationships with multiple LTL carriers that specialize in specific freight movement and freight handling services.
If you would like to learn more about the LTL services offered by Redwood Logistics, drop us a line today.