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What is LTL Freight?

LTL freight is a way to ship cargo that does not require a full semi-trailer to ship it. In other words, LTL freight combines separate loads from multiple people to fill a single trailer. Depending on the commodity that is being shipped, less than truckload (LTL) shipments are typically placed in crates or on pallets. For example, durable items like bricks would be stacked on a pallet while more fragile items, such as furniture, would be fully crated.

LTL freight carriers efficiently optimize loads to ensure max profit. If you think about it, they aren’t actually selling shipping services, they are selling trailer space. In order for LTL carriers to earn the most money possible, they must carefully fit as much freight into the truck as they can. In a similar fashion, their organizational efforts end up saving you a lot of money; the more freight LTL carriers can neatly stuff inside of a trailer, the better the price they can offer. Of course, LTL freight is not as simple as it seems. In fact, less than truckload operations are fairly intricate.

This guide will teach you the basics of LTL freight and how it can work wonders for your business. First, you will learn the advantages of using LTL trucking. Next, you will discover the various services the shipping method offers. Lastly, you will unravel the mystery behind how freight classes are calculated and how they affect the cost of LTL shipping. After reading this guide, you will know what LTL freight is and whether or not you should use it.

Benefits of LTL Trucking

There are many benefits that come with LTL trucking. The top five are:

  • Tracking:  The advanced tracking of LTL freight makes it simple to plan ahead for delivery.
  • Cost: Cost-effectiveness is the main attraction of LTL freight shipping. Anything weighing over 150 lbs can be shipped at a much lower price.
  • Ecofriendliness: Since shipments are combined, fewer trucks are on the road. This means that fewer emissions are released into the air thus reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Minimized Risk: Since LTL carriers require shipments to be packed into durable crates or stacked neatly on pallets, the risk of damage is reduced.
  • Service Options: There are many service options available to meet the specific shipping needs of both consumers and businesses.

How does LTL Work?

Less than truckload freight works on a hub and spoke system. Shipping companies combine shipments from multiple customers to create a full truckload shipment (FTL). The freight makes many stops between the pickup location and the delivery location. For example, a shipment going from Los Angeles to Miami may stop in Phoenix, Dallas, and Atlanta. During each stop, the freight is unloaded and then reloaded into a different trailer.

Types of LTL Freight Services

There is a wide selection of LTL services to meet anyone’s needs. The most common are:

  • Terminal to Terminal: If you do not have a dock available, you can always pick up or drop your freight off at a local terminal. By doing this, you avoid paying for liftgate service.
  • Residential: Most carriers will pick up and deliver to a residential area for an additional fee.
  • Liftgates: Liftgates are used when a loading dock or forklift is not available to load/unload the freight.
  • Inside Delivery: Inside delivery is when a shipment is taken directly inside of a business or house. This service is typically used when a loading dock is not available.
  • Expedited: Expedited services are used when you need a carrier to rush deliver your freight.

These are just a few of the common additional LTL services. It is important to know that not all LTL carriers offer the same services. That said, it is best to consult with a 3PL like uShip to find out which less than truckload company offers the services that you need. Feel free to contact us for more information.

LTL Freight Class

Developed by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), less than truckload freight classes were created to standardize the pricing of freight.  Almost every single shippable item is given an NMFC code which is then assigned to a freight class. There are 18 freight classes ranging from class 50 (the lowest price) to 500 (the most expensive). The denser the item, the lower the class. For example, a dense pallet of bricks would be a class 50 while a pallet of ping pong balls would be a class 500. You can reference the below table for more examples:

CLASSCOMMODITY EXAMPLEPCF WEIGHT RANGE
50Bulk Nuts & Bolts, Pallet of Bricks 50+ Pounds
55Hardwood Flooring, Paint Cans35-50 Pounds
60Car Accessories, Ceramic Tiles30-35 Pounds
65Boxes of Books, Bottled Drinks22.5-30 Pounds
70Forklift Battery, Car Parts15-22.5 Pounds
77.5Tires, Bathroom Fixtures13.5-15 Pounds
85Used Auto Engine, Crated Machinery12-13.5 Pounds
92.5Computers, Monitors10.5-12 Pounds
100Wooden Furniture, Boat/Car Covers9-10.5 Pounds
110Cosmetics, Framed Artwork8-9 Pounds
125Toasters, Blenders7-8 Pounds
150Auto Sheet Metal, Surgical Instruments6-7 Pounds
175Clothing, Fishing Nets5-6 Pounds
200Aircraft Parts, Sporting Helmets4-5 Pounds
250Mattress and Box Spring, Stuffed Furniture3-4 Pounds
300Cell Phones, Animal Taxidermy2-3 Pounds
400Kayaks, Bags of Potato Chips1-2 Pounds
500Ping-pong Balls, Insulation<1 Pound
*The above examples are only for understanding freight classes. Freight classes vary depending on the specific details of the shipment. Density, liability, handling, and stowability all affect the freight class of items. The classifications are the expressed opinion of uShip, and not the CCSB

Factors That Determine Freight Class

  • Density: Density represents how much an item weighs per unit volume. LTL freight’s density is measured in PCF, or pounds per cubic foot.
  • Stowability: Stowability is how the dimensions of the freight fit into a trailer. Think about a perfectly packed pallet opposed to an excessively long crate.
  • Liability: If the freight is fragile or perishable, then the liability increases. As a result, the item is placed in a higher freight class.
  • Handling: If the shipment needs special services to be moved, this could cause the freight to be placed in a higher class.

Confused yet?

The good news is that when it comes to shipping LTL freight, uShip makes it easy. To get free instant rates, all you need are the pickup & destination zip codes, dimensions, and weight; we calculate the freight class for you. Go ahead and give it a try – get free LTL quotes now.

 
 

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