A less than truckload (LTL) shipping rate is based on several different factors, all of which we’ll go over in this blog. If you’re unsure of how these relate to your product, just let us know and we’ll help you out! Typically, an LTL quote will take up less than 12 feet of linear space on a truck. For those of you who don’t have truck dimensions tacked to your office walls, this equates to 6 standard size pallets, not stacked. A standard size pallet is typically 48” x 40” or sometimes 48” x 48”. If your shipment takes up more space than this, you may need a volume shipping quote or a Full Truckload quote. Now that we’ve defined LTL, what exactly do we need to get accurate less than truckload rates? It comes down to 4 basic must-haves: Origin zip code, destination zip code, total weight, and freight class. I can’t say this enough: THESE FOUR PIECES OF INFORMATION ARE ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. The zip codes and total weight are self-explanatory, but freight class can sometimes be more complicated. We have an excellent blog explaining freight class if you need assistance on that end. Your freight broker can help with your freight class as well. Another vital piece of information for less than truckload rates is the mention of additional services. The standard LTL shipment is business-to-business and dock-to-dock. If you don’t have a shipping dock or forklift to get the pallets off the truck, you’ll need a liftgate, which can cost extra. Residential shipping also costs extra, as do several other things. Check out our Additional Services Cheat Sheet for more information on theses accessorials. They can change your freight quote and can make a difference in which carrier you select. Less than truckload has a lot of moving parts, and this blog is just a primer. If you’re new to shipping, be sure to download our Beginner’s Freight Shipping Guide, and check in on our collection of instructional Freight Papers, all available for FREE on our website. Happy Shipping! CC image courtesy Sergio Russo via Flickr
Regardless of whether you are a first time shipper, one-time shipper, or a residual shipper, you’re probably looking for ways to get lower freight rates. Lower costs of shipping increase profit and enable business growth. But finding ways to lower your freight rates isn’t always as easy as just searching Google, “freight quotes.” A responsible shipper of freight must recognize the difference between value and cost in their freight quotes. They must be able to parse through the lingo, the carriers, the accessorials, and even the weather and market capacities; and then emerge with their best available rate, with all of these factors included in the equation. Freight brokers (at least some kinds of brokers) are about more than just supplying their shippers with the lowest possible rates. There’s a range of freight services that a great broker will enhance for their shippers, including optimum ways to get lower freight rates. Like many things in the freight and shipping industry, there’s no great equation for success. It doesn’t matter if you’re moving freight through LTL, truckload, intermodal, parcel, overnight, expedited, or even air freight; the fact remains that each shipper and shipment is different, and will require different approaches to retain the best possible value and the overall lower freight rates. The purpose of this blog (and many others like it) is to help YOU get the best freight rates for your shipments. Like most opportunities in freight shipping, a good broker can be a partner that can help you save time and money. Some of these shipping tips you can take care of yourself, others you’ll need assistance from a broker or carrier (if you go direct). As I mentioned previously, there’s no perfect equation for getting the best freight rates. But if you take into account some of this tips, you should be on the right track to getting the most out of your shipping and freight quotes.
Consolidate Your FreightInstead of shipping all of your freight separately, try to consolidate your freight into as few shipments as possible. You should do this for a few reasons. 1.) This practice lowers the chance your freight will be damaged or lost in transit. Though damage and loss is not common in freight shipping (less common in full truckload shipping than LTL), it does happen. The more items that you ship, the greater your chance of freight damage. Though most LTL carriers do carry insurance, it’s not likely to cover the entirety of your item’s total loss, as well as freight charges accrued. For expensive or fragile items, we encourage our shippers to purchase third party freight insurance, available through your shipping broker. 2.) Consolidated freight takes up less space on the truck, and in LTL shipping the less space a shipment takes up the lower the freight rate is likely to be. Apart from the space of the truck, when you consolidate your freight your shipment will be more dense. Generally speaking, denser items will have a lower freight class. A lower freight class means a lower freight quote. A lower freight quote means you’re saving money on your LTL shipments.
Understand Your Freight ClassWe’ve talked a lot about freight class on this blog, and it can be a pain in the butt to constantly make sure you have the correct freight class, or check and see if your freight class has recently changed. All that said; it’s worth it. Incorrect freight class and reclasses are one of the most common types of adding cost to your freight rates. To avoid these costly reclasses it’s important to make sure you’re shipping your freight with the correct freight class. Truckload shipping does not use freight class and therefore it is not a factor in your freight quote if you’re moving full truckload. But if you’re shipping LTL, your freight will have a class, and that class can raise or lower your freight rate. Some shippers will try to move freight under an incorrect class in an effort to lower freight rates. We don’t recommend this tactic. Freight carriers are well versed in fraudulent freight class, and are not easily tricked. Apart from constant reclasses, your carriers can refuse to pick up your freight if they find that you are trying to cheat your freight class. By removing a particular freight carrier from your shipping options you cut down on your ability and your broker’s ability to lower your freight costs.
Research FAKsFAK is a freight term that stands for “Freight of All Kinds.” It is a pricing tool used by brokers and carriers to encourage higher shipping volume through one carrier, and bulk savings on the side of the shipper. FAKs allow shippers that ship high volumes of freight through one particular carrier the opportunity to ship multiple items under a lower freight class, thereby lowering their shipping costs. This is a simplification of the process, and you’ll need to speak with your freight broker to see if your shipping practices are eligible for an FAK, but if you’re shipping high volumes of freight you should get in contact with your broker, and see if an FAK can be negotiated. Carriers want to award high volume shippers for using their services, and they’ll make concessions when it comes to freight classes or services to get more of your business. FAKs can cut your freight rates if you qualify.
Lowering Your Freight RatesThere are many ways to save money on your shipping costs and lower your freight rates. Consolidating your freight, using the correct freight class, and researching freight of all kinds are three practices that you can use to optimize and streamline your freight shipping. Remember to note the difference between value and price in your shipping, they’re not always the same thing. And if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your freight broker.
Freight packaging is one of the most important parts of your freight shipping experience. Bad packaging can introduce you to damaged freight, expensive and time-consuming claim processes, and additional reclass fees. Conversely, using correct freight packaging practices can protect you from these things. If you’re going to get the most out of your LTL, truckload, or small package shipping, it’s important to nail the packaging part. At the end of the day, freight packaging can be just as important as getting the best shipping quote, or selecting the correct freight class.
Less Than TruckloadThe majority of Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipments are going to require some sort of packaging. There are the rare and unique items that can be shipped without any sort of packaging (kayaks, for example), but there are a number of reasons that freight packaging is actually a good thing, and one that shouldn’t be skimped on. The main reason for correct packaging is cargo safety, not just for your shipment, but for others as well. In LTL shipping, your freight will be on a truck with a number of other people’s shipments. In order to protect all the freight inside the truck through the pickup and delivery processes, having the right packaging is a must. The most common package you’ll find in both LTL and Truckload is the pallet. Pallets come in a variety of sizes, but the standard pallet size is going to be 48″ x 40″ — that’s Length x Width. You’ll also find a fair number of pallets that are sized 48″ x 48″. While some items can be strapped directly to the pallet, most items should be boxed or crated. Use common sense when boxing your shipment. For instance, if you’re shipping something fragile and breakable, use extra care and packing material such as packing peanuts, newspapers, and bubble wrap. Once your items are properly boxed, wrap them all together using industrial strength plastic wrap. Make sure to use the wrap to sufficiently attach not only the boxes together, but the boxes to the pallet as well. The standard LTL shipment is going to do a lot of moving, so keep that in mind when you’re packing your freight. Don’t forget that freight insurance is always available.
Truckload & FlatbedUnlike LTL, your freight will usually remain on the same truck from pickup to delivery. Though this does give your freight a bit more security from damage, many of the same packaging practices you’ll find in LTL can be used for standard dry van truckload shipments. You’ll want to palletize your freight, and make sure to note whether your items can be stacked or not. Truckload shipments do not use freight class, so you won’t have to worry about that, but it’s still a good idea to know your freight’s exact dimensions and weight, with all packaging and pallets included. If you’re doing a reefer freight shipment, make sure that you’ve properly packaged all your items so that in case of puncture or other damage (accidents happen), not all of your items will be contaminated by spilled food or liquid. And when it comes to flatbed shipping, confirm whether the carrier supplies straps and tarps before scheduling the pickup. You’ll need proper packaging for every kind of large flatbed load, even if its not a pallet or crate.
Parcel & Small PackageFinally, we’ve come to freight packaging for parcel shipping. Because of the limited weight of all small package shipments (150 lbs. or less), you won’t have to worry about pallets or crates. Parcel shipping also doesn’t use freight class when it comes to rates, so you won’t have to worry if your packaging is affecting your freight quote. When packaging your small package shipment just use a standard shipping box. There are numerous sizes available depending on your shipment needs. Once again, use common sense when packaging your parcel shipments. More padding and protection for fragile items, etc. Parcel shipping is going to be bumped and tossed around from pickup to delivery, so don’t skimp on the bubble wrap and packing tape.
When it comes to your freight charges, there is a lot to know. In an industry like the freight industry, even a good broker is going to run into issues concerning freight charges. When there’s (at minimum) three parties coordinating on picking up and delivering freight across hundreds (or thousands) of miles, there’s bound to be some confusion. This doesn’t mean you should be afraid of your freight charges! Hardly. A good freight education is the best way to avoid issues, and working with a great freight broker helps too. Rest assured, if you pay attention to the points we make in this blog, you can approach your freight shipping equipped with the knowledge necessary to easily understand your freight charges, and better avoid any sort of discrepancies.
1.) Not all freight charges are created equalFreight charges are not universal. In LTL shipping, we use dozens of different carriers. Some are large national carriers, with coverage maps that stretch across the continental United States, into Canada and Puerto Rico, and employ thousands of trucks and drivers. Others are smaller, regional carriers, that specialize in very particular geographic areas, and can offer great freight rates and service for these areas. By utilizing such a collection of carriers, brokers can offer their customers the best freight quotes available. However, each of these carriers has their own freight tariffs and agreements on particular charges, just like they have their own freight quotes. Sometimes, brokers can negotiate flat rate agreements in FAKs (Freight of All Kinds) with particular carriers, but for the most part, a liftgate charge with a carrier like Roadrunner might be different than a liftgate charge with New Penn. This kind of arrangement will apply to all sorts of charges: residential delivery, volume quotes, reweigh or reclass charges, limited access shipping, etc. Remember, just because a liftgate cost you $50 on your last shipment, doesn’t necessarily mean it will cost the same on your next one.
2.) Truckload freight charges are very different from LTLThe practices of full truckload shipping and LTL are very different. The quoting process is different. The carrier selection and vetting process is different. The tracking and insurance practices are different. When it comes to truckload vs LTL, there are very few rules that can be applied to both. Of course, this applies to freight charges as well. Freight charges between truckload and LTL can vary wildly, depending on a variety of factors. Though a good broker will always be negotiating for better rates with LTL carriers, freight lanes and routes should not change too much from day-to-day. Truckload shipping quotes, on the other hand, vary based on capacity and markets. A truckload quote in July will probably be different than one in December, or even August! Certain parts of the country feel crunch around produce seasons each year, and holidays always affect full truckload freight charges. Each shipment, LTL or otherwise, is different, so don’t assume that your freight rates will always be the same.
3.) Freight charges can still apply to damaged freightDamaged freight is one of the most frustrating parts of the shipping industry. Part of this is because damaged freight, at least in one form or another, is unavoidable. If you’re a frequent shipper, odds are that you will have to deal with damaged freight at least once. And before that day comes, it’s important to understand that freight charges can still apply to damaged freight. Just because your freight is damaged in transit by the carrier doesn’t mean that you are not responsible for those freight charges. There are lots of damaged freight instructions and processes, and different carriers have different ways of dealing with damaged freight, but in all instances you or your broker will have to file a damaged freight claim with the carrier. Different carriers have different coverages for freight that is partially damaged, fully damaged, or lost, but the initial freight invoices still have to be paid. Think of them as two separate transactions. Regardless of damage, you have to pay the initial freight invoice. If something went wrong, you file a freight claim and depending on the carrier’s coverage policies, you get back some percentage of that initial payment. The process of damaged freight is admittedly vague and convoluted. It’s important to get a handle on the insurance policies and coverages offered by the carrier you’re using based on your item’s freight class or declared value BEFORE you ship. If you’re moving expensive freight, we highly recommend investing in third party insurance, as they streamline the process, deal with the carriers directly, and are more likely to compensate you quickly for your legitimate loss or damage. One paragraph is hardly enough to cover damaged freight, so reach out to your broker for further clarification.
4.) Documentation is always needed to fight invoice discrepanciesSome of the most common invoice discrepancies we find here at FreightPros are reclasses and reweighs. These happen when the information on the bill of lading does not match the actual freight being shipped. Items are notated at lower classes or lower weights on the BOL to get a lower freight rate. If the carrier inspects the freight and determines the shipment is a different class, or weighs more than it says on the BOL, you might run into a reclass or reweigh. If the shipper doesn’t want to pay that additional charge, they’ll need to prove that their initial information on class or weight was correct. To do this, they need to supply the carrier with sufficient documentation in the form of manufacturer specifications on weight or commodity, not to mention NMFC numbers or density calculations. Your broker can help you compile this information and fight the carrier, but in all instances, specific documentation is a must. Without it, you will be responsible for the additional freight charges. Some freight carriers have better track records when it comes to reweighs and reclasses, so check with your broker to make sure you’re shipping with the right carrier. It’s also important to get exact weight and classes on the BOL. The more information available to the carrier on the bill of lading, the less chance of a discrepancy.
If you’re new to Less Than Truckload shipping you’ve come to the right place. The freight industry is a big pie and Less Than Truckload (LTL) is just one slice. It’s not exactly UPS or Fedex. Not exactly post office shipping. And not exactly full truckload shipping. LTL has its own set of rules, practices, and quotes. If you’re going to be getting LTL quotes, and setting up LTL shipments, there are some things that you need to know. This introductory blog will get you the basic information you need to get started with less than truckload shipping. We’ll discuss the freight industry, less than truckload, the difference between freight carriers and freight brokers, and the life of an LTL shipment. We’ll also briefly touch on freight class, and what you’ll need to get a less than truckload quote.