Less than truckload (LTL) shipping is a reliable and cost effective way to move shipments that are approximately six pallets or less.  To be a successful LTL shipper, execute the 8 LTL shipping basics listed below.

LTL Shipping Basics

LTL Shipping Basics #1 – Measure your freight.  To ship with an LTL carrier, you must specify the weight, dimensions, number of items and freight class. The carriers all have inspection groups at their terminals to identify shipments that have the incorrect weight, freight class or dimensions. When the carrier identifies a mistake on the weight, class or dimensions, they will charge the shipper for the higher cost shipment along with a re-class, re-weigh fee for $20-$25.

LTL Shipping Basics #2 – Get freight quotes from multiple carriers.  Every carrier has their own sweet spot in terms of the type of freight they want and the places they want to ship. Carriers will give better pricing to get freight in their sweet spot, so it makes sense to quote at least 3 carriers for each shipment.  Most shippers choose a carrier based on cost alone, but it makes sense to also consider transit time, on time performance, damage and billing accuracy.

LTL Shipping Basics #3 – Document and store freight quotes.  After the freight quotes are received, it is important to document and store the quote. If there is a discrepancy between the price quoted by the carrier and the invoice amount from the carrier, there needs to be a record of the quote. The best way to manage quotes is with a web based software system, but email will also work. Verbal quotes are discouraged because there is obviously no record.

LTL Shipping Basics #4 – Create an accurate and complete bill of lading. The bill of lading (BOL) is a document by which the carrier acknowledges receipt of goods for transport. In addition to the shipping locations, the BOL should include the number of items being shipped, dimensions, weight and freight class. Also include Freight loading and handling requirements.  If the freight can’t be stacked, be sure to specify on the BOL. Sloppy and incomplete BOL’s lead to mistakes. 

LTL Shipping Basics #5 – Communicate with the carrier. When booking the shipment, tell the carrier about any special requirements like a lift gate, extra space on the truck or that the freight can’t be stacked. Also discuss the pick-up time window. Good communication up front will help avoid issues downstream.  All the carriers have knowledgeable custom service reps who can address your questions or concerns. Communication is one of the keys to successful LTL shipping. 

LTL Shipping Basics #6 – Track your shipments.  LTL shipments do not have guaranteed transit times, so tracking is important to ensure the shipment is moving. When the carrier picks up a shipment, they will provide the shipper with a pro number. The pro number is a tracking number that will enable the shipper to easily track the shipment. Shipments can be tracked online at the carrier website or by calling the carrier’s customer service line. If you work with a 3rd party logistics provider they will most likely track the shipment for you and send you email updates.

LTL Shipping Basics #7 – Inspect shipments for damage.  If a shipment arrives damaged, it must be documented by the consignee (party who receives the shipment) when the shipment is received. If the consignee signs for the shipment as undamaged, it makes the freight claim more difficult.

LTL Shipping Basics #8 – Audit freight bills.  5% to 15% of freight bills are incorrect, yet many shippers pay their freight bills without auditing them. When the freight bill arrives the shipper needs to compare it against the price quoted.  If there is a discrepancy, contact the carrier to discuss and resolve the issue.