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LTL Freight Shipping

Posted by Brice Eserman on March 3, 2022 - 8:16 AM
semi-truck carrying LTL freight driving down road during sunset

Explore the world of less-than-truckload shipping

No matter how much experience you have planning and booking freight shipments, LTL might bring some processes you’ve never had to navigate before. This is because LTL involves unique details like freight class, and things like transit and handling may work differently than what you’ve seen with other modes. But with a little insight into how the service works and what you can expect, LTL shipping can be a great addition to your transportation plan.

Dive into the details: how it works, why it works, and when you should use it

Start with the basics to understand when and why LTL shipping is a good option.

What is LTL freight?

Less-than-truckload (LTL) freight typically weighs between 150 and 20,000 pounds and isn’t large enough to fill a full semi-trailer. This freight is usually palletized or crated for safer handling.

How does LTL shipping work?

Because LTL freight doesn’t require a full trailer, LTL carriers move goods across the country by combining multiple shipments into one trailer. Though methods vary, many carriers use strategically placed service centers to pick up local freight and consolidate it with other shipments headed in the same direction. Freight continues to be transported from service center to service center until it reaches a location near its destination city and is sent for delivery.

How are costs determined?

Rates are based on the weight and dimensions of your shipment, its origin and destination, the freight classification, and any special services or equipment. Carriers can have varying rates depending on their current capacity and may charge differently for assessorials like liftgates and inside delivery.

How do I know if it’s right for my freight?

Your logistics provider can discuss the specifics of your shipment with you to determine the right mode. But LTL is usually the best option for smaller shipments that don’t require exclusive use of the equipment. If you’ve previously used parcel services, LTL may offer better rates, less damage, more handling options and reduced environmental impact. Learn more about how LTL compares to parcel.

How to ship LTL

Once you’ve determined LTL is the right mode for your freight, there are a few steps to take to get it ready for shipping.

Know the weight, dimensions and class

Carriers need to know the exact weight and dimensions of your freight since trailers have a set amount of space and a limit for how much weight they can hold. Correct measurements will reduce the risk for unexpected charges and help ensure your freight moves on schedule.

Providing the proper National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is also necessary. Class is determined by factors like density, value, stowability and handling. Read more about NMFC.

Package it correctly

Because LTL freight gets handled multiple times during transit and is loaded with other types of freight in the equipment, proper packaging is essential for keeping it intact and damage-free. Everything from choosing the proper box, pallet or crate to using the right internal packaging can help keep freight safe. Use these LTL packaging tips to get started.

Get quotes and book a reliable carrier

Compare rates and services from different LTL providers to find the right fit for your freight. Remember to discuss any special services up-front so there aren’t any unexpected charges and talk through their processes to ensure your freight will be handled safely. The more communication you have during the quoting and booking process, the smoother your experience will be.

Looking for an LTL provider?

With nearly 100 years of LTL experience, ArcBest is uniquely equipped to help you find the best option for your shipments. LTL service is available through our industry-leading LTL carrier ABF Freight® and our network of vetted LTL carriers. And with a full suite of other logistics solutions, we can help ensure your supply chain is operating at peak efficiency — no matter which transportation mode you’re using.

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