What is LTL Shipping and How Can it Help my Business?

The Benefits of LTL Shipping

Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping is a way of transporting smaller amounts of freight that do not fill up an entire truck. Usually, LTL freight shipments are gauged by weight –  ranging between 150 and 15,000 pounds, depending on the shipper, and taking up less than 24 feet of space (six pallets or less). Shipments that are smaller than 150 pounds are sent by parcel carriers such as UPS and FedEx, and larger shipments are considered full truckloads.

LTL shipping is different than Full Truckload, where the shipper pays the cost to fill an entire truck, essentially renting the truck from the carrier and paying a per mile rate.

With LTL shipping, the shipper only pays for the portion of the truck they are using. The carrier fills the truck with other shippers’ shipments, charging each according to the amount of space they fill.

The Benefits of LTL Shipping

  • Significantly lower pricing – By grouping together multiple smaller loads from several shippers, each customer only pays for the portion of the truck they use, while making it cost effective for the carrier. It’s a win-win for all. Renting an entire truck is costly, especially if one is not needed.
  • Flexibility for the shipper – Since there is no need to fill an entire truck, it allows a shipper to only ship what is required.
    • For small businesses who never need the entire truck, it creates the ability to be flexible in their shipping quantities and schedules.
    • It also allows a shipper to send out a steady supply of inventory, thus avoiding dips and over-shipping, to avoid a glut to the end user – a feast or famine scenario on a regular basis. Fulfillment and replenishment become easier, more consistent, and more cost effective.
    • More secure then parcel services – when shipping LTL, all items need to be on a pallet and shrink wrapped to help them together. By bundling them together this way, the entire shipment is more secure
    • Better for the environment – By having multiple shippers share one truck versus each shipper using separate trucks that are operating at less than capacity, the carbon footprint is lowered for all.
    • LTL shipping also offer a host of add-on services that FTL cannot always offer (these services usually incur additional fees). These additional services include:
      • Liftgates at pickup and/or delivery – A hydraulic lift on the back of a truck, it allows the shipment to be moved safely and securely off and on the truck. They safely raise or lower cargo to or from a truck, limiting the risk of damage to goods and injury to workers. It is especially helpful when locations do not have a dock.
      • Inside pickup and delivery –  This is pickup or delivery to a building with or without an accessible dock, where the product is carried from or brought into the building by the delivery driver, to or from specific rooms or areas.
      • Residential service – This is self-explanatory. It pickup or delivery from a private residence rather than a business.

      Considerations with LTL Shipping

      Transit times can be longer – The main time issue with LTL shipments comes from the fact that the truck is being shared and will not depart until all the shipments are on the truck. This involves a higher level of organization and planning. Additionally, it may not take a direct route to its destination. The company will plan the most efficient route possible, but it does have to make multiple stops on its route. Creating the most efficient route may involve transfers to other trucks at regional hubs. Both of these can increase the delivery time. Expedited services are usually available, but this drives up the costs.

      Potential Damage – While there is always the rare occasion where freight is damaged no matter how it is shipped, since LTL shipping can require freight to be moved to other trucks along the way, it does increase the chance of damage. It is less damage-prone then parcel services, but more than Full truck load.

      LTL for your business

      LTL is best when there is some flexibility in scheduling and deadlines, if the items being shipped can be easily palletized, and are 6 pallets or less. LTL is generally a more cost-effective solution.

      Let Sterling be Your LTL Shipper

      Every year Sterling moves more than 260,000 LTL shipments. We realized long ago that many of our customers regularly require LTL shipping as part of their overall transportation and logistics needs. The flexibility to size up or down according to business demands and realize the savings it affords is critical to an organization’s efficient operation and bottom line.

      Every LTL shipment receives that same high level of care and attention as our largest, most complex jobs including:

      • Supporting shipments of smaller high-touch products less than 5000 lbs.
      • Moving shipments within our distribution center network located in all 50 states and Canada.
      • Handling by our highly trained staff of professionals certified in proper handling procedures and techniques.

      Sterling offers a full array of services including:

      •   Air-ride equipped trucks
      •   Liftgate service
      •   2 Man crews
      •   Expedited shipping
      •   Inside delivery
      •   Put-in-place, debris removal
      •   On-day, on-time requirements
      •   Online real-time tracking for load and delivery status, updates, and POD

      Please contact us if you have any questions, would like to request a quote, or schedule a shipment.