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The Pick-Up Window in LTL: Two Hours of Freight Patience

pick-up window freight
cc image courtesy kickize via Flickr

The pick-up window is one of the most important aspects of LTL. Of course it is! It’s the beginning of the journey! But a missed pick-up can throw off the whole timeline of delivery, and even if you’re looking at hot shipments, this is something we all want to avoid.

The most common reason behind a missed LTL pick-up is because the shipper (or whoever scheduled the pick-up) did not abide by The Two-Hour Pick-Up Window.

You may be asking yourself, What is this pick-up window he speaks of???

Basically, every LTL pick-up must be scheduled at least two hours before it can be expected to be picked up, and there must be a minimum two-hour window when the freight will be available to the carrier. That means if your window is 3:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M., it will need to be scheduled no later than 1:00 P.M.

Why do all freight companies abide by these rules? Because regulations like the two hour pick-up window keep the less-than-truckload game as orderly as possible. When drivers go out in the mornings, they do so with a full truck of freight.

They plan their routes based on delivery locations, and only once their trucks are empty can they begin the process of picking up new shipments. That’s why deliveries are in the morning, and pick-ups later in the afternoon.

None of this is a science. Traffic, weather, driver shortage, and capacity can all slow down LTL drivers. In an industry based on trust, a host of missed pick-ups can move shippers and brokers alike to switch carriers. So the two-hour pick-up window rule is designed to protect the service the carriers are providing, by setting in place a provision that allows them to do their job to the best of their ability.

Without the pick-up window, LTL would be even more chaotic than it already is. People would set outrageous demands for pick-up and delivery based on their schedule, and then there would be hell to pay when those demands weren’t met. On the contrary, the system currently in place allows the best planners (calling in pick-ups early) to get the best results.

So what’s the best advice for limited missed pick-ups or deliveries? Schedule pick-ups early in the day so drivers can plan their routes based on your locations. Also, the larger the pick-up window the better. Don’t force the carrier into a 11:00 A.M.- 1:00 P.M. pick-up knowing that the mornings are for deliveries. Expect pick-ups later in the afternoon, and have patience. That’s the way LTL works best.


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