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Overlength, Over Dimensional Charges, and Volume Quotes: Keeping Things Straight

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cc image courtesy João Trindade via Flickr

There’s a saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” and a lot of people stand by the belief that bigger is always better. In the freight industry, however, this isn’t necessarily the case. LTL pricing is partially based on contracts that allow for a certain amount of space used in the carrier’s trucks. If you have multiple pallets that all add up to a lot of truck space (about 12 feet, or six standard pallets), you will probably need a volume quote.

But if you’re shipping a 16ft. lead pipe, it doesn’t seem fair to have to pay for the full capacity of those 16ft., especially when the diameter of your pipe is only five inches! What do you do when you have just one item that is really long but won’t take up much width within the truck?

Here at FreightPros, we encounter that question pretty frequently, so this blog is long overdue. (I won’t apologize for my horrible puns. You can’t make me!)

Jokes aside, there are numerous accessorials (AKA additional services) that the LTL industry has to offer. The service in today’s spotlight is called “Overlength/Overdimension.” This is an accessorial that you can select when you have an individual piece that is really long but not very wide. As with any special service, there is an additional charge for overlength. However, paying for overlength on a single piece can often be cheaper than a full volume quote.

Volume v. Overlength

So how do you know if your shipment needs a volume quote, or just an overlength service? Most LTL carriers actually have two space limits that they base their pricing on: an LTL Limit and an Overlength Limit. The LTL Limit applies to shipments that will take up a full 12 feet or more of trailer space, and these shipments require a volume quote.

The Overlength Limit, on the other hand, applies for single pieces that are long but won’t take up much of the trailer’s width. Usually the Overlength Limit is a few feet shorter than the full LTL Limit. This means that even if a shipment doesn’t go over the LTL Limit it could still have a piece that goes over the Overlength Limit, so you would need to include the overlength accessorial to ensure that you get an accurate rate.

Packaging Matters!

Remember that carriers apply overlength services per piece. Two loose pipes that are overlength will get you two overlength charges. However, one bundle of five overlength pipes will only incur one charge, because they are all packed together as one item.

It’s the ultimate group discount! If you are shipping multiple overlength items that are packaged separately, it’s a good idea to reach out to your freight broker to ensure that you are getting the most accurate rate possible, since multiple overlength charges may apply.

Help! How Do I Know if My Shipment is Overlength?

If you’re not sure if your shipment is considered overlength, reach out to your freight broker! Any broker worth their salt should be able to assist you. A good rule of thumb is to reach out to your broker any time you have a shipment where an individual piece is over ten feet long.

Your broker should be able to tell you what the rules are for each particular carrier and whether or not an overlength service is needed. Adopting this practice and learning these rules will help you proactively avoid delays, as well as unexpected additional charges on your invoices! Keep it up and it won’t be long before you become a freight expert!


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