What is Less Than Truckload (LTL) Shipping and How Can It Help You?
LTL shipping is the smart and economical shipping method for any company that needs to transport freight weighing between 100 pounds and 10,000 pounds. Or to make it even simpler, it’s the most cost-effective way for companies who don’t ship full truckloads (hence the less than truckload name) of product at a time to transport their freight.
In this article, we will dive into how LTL shipping works, and the benefits it can bring to your company.
How Does LTL Shipping Work?
How does it work? Well, we’re glad you asked. Essentially, LTL carriers use a sophisticated network of trucks and terminals to move smaller loads of freight to their destination by consolidating it with other LTL shipments. This contrasts with the more commonly known Full Truckload (FTL) shipping that transports the freight of a single shipper directly to the final destination.
The simplest way to think of the LTL shipping network is to imagine it as a spoke and hub design made up of small, local (spoke) terminals and large, central (hub) terminals that guide LTL carriers through their shipments. Typically, once an LTL shipment is picked up for delivery it is first brought to a local terminal for initial consolidating onto an LTL truck and then taken to a central terminal to continue its journey. This process of continuous consolidation is what keeps LTL shipments moving quickly and efficiently to their destinations.
Here’s an example to make it even clearer. If you have 2,000 pounds of toy robots to ship out of your warehouse in a Chicago suburb and deliver to Houston it doesn’t make financial sense to pay for FTL shipping—you won’t even come close to filling up the truck. Instead, you’ll share the space in an LTL shipping truck and only pay for the portion of space you’re using, saving you money while still allowing you to ship your items when you need to—not if and when you finally have a full truckload.
Once your items are picked up by your carrier in the suburbs they’ll begin their journey through the various terminals in the LTL network, starting at a local terminal near your business where it will be packed with other shipments moving in a similar direction, and then moving to a central terminal to either be picked up for final delivery or, in the case of a long journey like Chicago to Houston, to be consolidated again to move through various other terminals until it reaches a central terminal near Houston to be picked up for final delivery. Over the course of the journey, your toy robots may be transported on a number of different trucks depending on which driver’s current direction makes the most sense for an efficient delivery.
Benefits of LTL Shipping
If the ability to transport smaller loads when you need to without paying for a full truckload isn’t enough of a reason to consider LTL shipping for your company, it also offers other benefits that make it a smart logistical choice for your business.
- Price negotiation – many LTL companies allow you to negotiate year-long contracts that ensure you know what you’ll pay for all your LTL shipments for the duration of that contract, which gives you peace of mind and saves you from wasting time you’d spend negotiating every shipment (or paying more than you’d like)
- Quick turn-around deliveries – some LTL carriers can complete deliveries in as little as two hours, which is perfect for companies with limited warehouse space who need to get finished product out the door as soon as possible
- Efficient cross-country trips – LTL carriers with large networks can complete cross-country deliveries within a week and sometimes in under three days
- Intelligent tracking – with LTL shipping you’ll have all the data you need to ensure your freight is picked up, transported and delivered quickly and accurately, usually via tracking of a Bill of Lading, Pro Number, etc.
- Less environmental impact – you’ll lower your company’s carbon footprint by sharing trucks with other shippers instead of multiple companies each using unfilled trucks
- Greater security than parcel shipping – some companies with small freight loads may consider traditional parcel shipping, which while working in a similar network of spoke and hub terminals, often doesn’t place as much emphasis on the security of what they’re shipping. LTL carriers have more resources for securely packing freight (such as pallets or durable crates), which helps ensure your product arrives at its final destination in the same condition in which you shipped it
- Additional services – LTL shipping offers liftgates, non-commercial shipping, inside pick-up and delivery and more advanced notification options you won’t be able to access with FTL shipping
We get it. Managing your freight in the most cost-effective and logistically practical manner isn’t always easy, especially when you’ve got a lot of smaller shipments you need to move out the door. But with LTL shipping you can get your product out for delivery when you need to and at affordable rates along with many other benefits that have a direct positive impact on your business.
If you’re interested in shipping via LTL, or are already shipping LTL, partnering with a logistics company that specializes in this arena can be extremely helpful. Here at LTX Solutions, we manage over 10,000 shipments a month will full customer satisfaction. Our low rates through carrier negotiation, coupled with advanced technology, data analytics, and outstanding customer service, we become a vital part of your supply chain. For more information on how we can save you time and money, reach out to us today!