For today’s many industries, it is essential not only to create goods at the factories and other means of production, but to get these items, whether ears of corn, computers, or children’s toys wherever they need to go. In the United States, for example, big businesses are built around transportation services, with expedited trucking, overweight freight, specialty freight, and many more options out there for clients to choose from, depending on their needs. Another method of transport popular today is LTL shipping services, or “less than truckload.” What are LTL shipping services, and what are the advantages compared to other delivery methods? When are LTL shipping services the best idea versus traditional methods like railroad?
Transportation in the United States
The continental United States is vast, covering deserts, plains, rivers, mountains, and more, so manufacturers need the right shipment methods to get produced goods anywhere and everywhere in a timely manner. Some 12 million trucks, locomotives, rail cars, and vessels deliver items in the American transportation network, and among all the commodities delivered through these various channels, the most valuable in American freight are machinery, motorized vehicles, and electronics such as computers and laptops. Trucks alone deliver an impressive amount of cargo, and as one example, in 2013, trucks delivered around 15 billion tons of cargo, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes that by 2040, that figure could very well rise to 18.79 billion tons. Speaking more broadly, the total spending of the American logistics and transportation industry reached $1.48 trillion in the year 2015, and this stands for 8% of the American gross domestic product, or GDP. LTL shipping services, meanwhile, are only a portion of this industry but are important and can be very convenient for clients.
LTL Shipping Services
Truckload freight is a major part of the transportation industry, especially since planes and trains cannot travel to certain areas, while trucks can drive along roads and deliver their goods at distribution centers and retailers. Often, planes and trains deliver larger sums of cargo to a bigger distribution center, then trucks deliver smaller loads across a wide swath of territory to retailers. And LTL shipping services can be essential for this.
How does LTL shipping work? According to Freight Quote, LTL shipping is done when freight doesn’t use up all the space in a trailer. Instead, the shipper only pays for the trailer’s volume occupied by their goods, and the rest of the space is used for, and paid for, by other shippers. In short, the truck will deliver goods for several different clients at the same time.
Using LTL shipping can be a very attractive option for clients. For one thing, it reduces costs, since only a portion of the truck’s cargo bay is being used and paid for, and a client’s shipment is often placed on a secure pallet, not to mention the shipment tracking information that the truck’s company will often provide for clients. As for the price of using LTL shipping services, the distance traveled and the amount of space occupied by a client’s items will alter the price, with increased distance and volume occupied means higher fees. Expedited shipping is also an option in exchange for an extra fee, and special needs cargo such as fragile or temperature sensitive items, or hazardous materials, also means higher costs. Often, when a shipment’s total weight is under 15,000 pounds, that is the right time to choose LTL shipping services, especially if the client wants to save money.
When a client’s goods are loaded onto a truck with LTL shipping services, the exact dimensions of the cargo, down to the inch, will be measured for height, length, and width. This helps carriers maximize room efficiency in their vehicles and avoid adjustment fees. The bill of lading should also be accurately completed, and it can act as a document for the goods being shipped. Finally, items will usually be securely packaged onto pallets, and heavier items should be packed at the bottom of pallets or crates to prevent stacks from falling over and to prevent items from being crushed. Labels can be placed on the pallet’s side if heavier items are involved.