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Less than truckload

Less than truckload

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Less than truckload shipping is the transportation of relatively small freight
Cargo is goods or produce transported, generally for commercial gain, by ship, aircraft, train, van or truck. In modern times, containers are used in most intermodal long-haul cargo transport.-Marine:...

. The alternatives to LTL carriers are parcel carriers or full truckload carriers. Parcel carriers
Package delivery
Package delivery or parcel delivery is the shipping of packages or high value mail as single shipments. While the service is provided by most postal systems, private package delivery services have also existed in competition with and in place of public postal services.-Package delivery in the...

 usually handle small packages and freight that can be broken down in to units less than 150 pounds (68 kg). Full truckload carriers move freight that is loaded into a semi-trailer
A semi-trailer is a trailer without a front axle. A large proportion of its weight is supported by a road tractor, a detachable front axle assembly known as a dolly, or the tail of another trailer...

. Semi trailers are typically between 26 and 53 ft (7.9 and 16.2 m) and thereby require a substantial amount of freight
Cargo is goods or produce transported, generally for commercial gain, by ship, aircraft, train, van or truck. In modern times, containers are used in most intermodal long-haul cargo transport.-Marine:...

 to make such transportation economical.

Less than truckload (LTL)

LTL shipments typically weigh between 151 and 20000 lb (68.5 and 9,071.8 ). Less than truckload carriers collect freight from various shippers and consolidate that freight onto enclosed trailers for linehaul to the delivering terminal or to a hub terminal where the freight will be further sorted and consolidated for additional linehauls. In most cases, drivers start the day by loading up and heading out to make deliveries first, then begin making pickups once the trailer has been emptied for return to the terminal for sorting and delivery next day; thus, most pickups are made in the afternoon and most deliveries are performed in the morning.

Pickup/delivery drivers usually have set casual routes which they travel every day or several times a week, so the driver has an opportunity to develop a rapport with his customers. Once the driver has filled his trailer or completed his assigned route, he returns to his terminal for unloading. The trailer is unloaded and the individual shipments are then weighed and inspected to verify their conformity to the description contained in the accompanying paperwork. All LTL freight is subject to inspection for this purpose, though not all freight is inspected. Next, the freight is loaded onto an outbound trailer which will forward the freight to a breakbulk
Break bulk cargo
In shipping, break bulk cargo or general cargo is a term that covers a great variety of goods that must be loaded individually, and not in intermodal containers nor in bulk as with oil or grain. Ships that carry this sort of cargo are often called general cargo ships...

, a connection, or to the delivering terminal. An LTL shipment may be handled only once while in transit, or it may be handled multiple times before final delivery is accomplished.

Transit times for LTL freight are longer than for Full Truckload freight (FTL). LTL transit times are not directly related only to the distance between shipper and consignee. Instead, LTL transit times are dependent upon the makeup of the network of terminals and breakbulks that are operated by a given carrier and that carrier's beyond agents and interline partners. For example, if a shipment is picked up and delivered by the same freight terminal, or if the freight must be sorted and routed only once while in transit, the freight will likely be delivered on the next business day after pickup. If the freight must be sorted and routed more than once, or if more than one linehaul is required for transportation to the delivering terminal, then the transit time will be longer. In some instances the LTL freight has up to 10 days of delivery time frame. Also, delivery to beyond points or remote areas will almost always add days to the transit time.

The main advantage to using an LTL carrier is that a shipment may be transported for a fraction of the cost of hiring an entire truck and trailer for an exclusive shipment. Also, a number of accessorial services are available from LTL carriers, which are not typically offered by FTL carriers. These optional services include liftgate service at pickup or delivery, residential (also known as "non-commercial") service at pickup or delivery, inside delivery, notification prior to delivery, freeze protection, and others. These services are usually billed at a predetermined flat fee or for a weight based surcharge calculated as a rate per pound or per hundredweight.

Integrating FTL and LTL carriers for shipper cost savings

Shippers with enough volume of LTL freight may choose to use a Full Truckload Carrier to move the freight directly to a break-bulk facility of an LTL carrier. For example, a North Carolina shipper with a large quantity of shipments bound for Western US States (for example, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) may be able to realize significant cost savings by having a FTL carrier, known as a linehaul carrier, transport the freight to a break-bulk facility in a central location near the ultimate destination of the freight (in this example, delivery to a break-bulk facility in California for parceling out into LTL lots for transport to the final destinations). The use of an FTL carrier to transport this freight generally provides an overall cost savings because the freight will travel fewer miles in the FTL carrier's network, as well as a reduced overall fuel surcharge cost—that is, one FTL carrier travels the distance to the break-bulk facility for a single carrier's price while using only the fuel required for that FTL truck, vs. several LTL carriers at each carrier's price, each covering some of the same path to the final destinations and each using the fuel required for each one of the LTL trucks. A further benefit is realized in both loading cost and product damage because the freight will not need to be unloaded and reloaded as many times. Additionally, this reduces the incidence of loss and the opportunity for pilfering or theft, because all of the freight travels together and is not broken down into LTL loads until it reaches the break-bulk distribution facility.

Parcel carrier operations

A parcel carrier traditionally only handles pieces weighing less than approximately 150 pounds (68 kg). Parcel carriers typically still compete with LTL carriers by convincing shippers to break larger shipments down to smaller packages. Parcel carriers typically refer to multipiece shipments as "Hundredweight" shipments as the rating is based on 100 pounds (45 kg). The Hundredweight rate is multiplied by the shipment's weight and then divided by 100 and then rounded up to the nearest hundred.

LTL carrier operation

LTL carriers prefer to handle shipments with the least amount of handling units possible. LTL carriers prefer a shipment of 1 pallet
A pallet , sometimes called a skid, is a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, front loader or other jacking device. A pallet is the structural foundation of a unit load which allows handling and storage efficiencies...

 containing 100 boxes shrink wrap
Shrink wrap
Shrink wrap, also shrinkwrap or shrink film, is a material made up of polymer plastic film. When heat is applied it shrinks tightly over whatever it is covering. Heat can be applied with a hand held heat gun or the product and film can pass through a heat tunnel on a conveyor.-Composition:The...

ped to form one piece rather than 100 individual pieces. This reduces handling costs and the risk of damage during transit. Typically, the per pound rates of LTL carriers are less than the per pound rates of parcel carriers. Some examples of LTL Services Carrier are: LTL Freight Center, Freight Whiz, WRDS Transportation and R+L Carriers
R+L Carriers
R+L Carriers is a freight shipping company, based in the United States. Over the course of 40 years, R+L Carriers, Inc. has grown from one truck to a fleet of 21,000 tractors and trailers. R+L Carriers serves a total of 50 states plus Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Dominican...



Both LTL carriers and XL parcel carriers are similar in the fact that they both use a network of hubs and terminals to deliver freight. Delivery times by both types of service providers are not directly dependent upon the distance between shipper and consignee. Also, using an LTL carrier is very similar to that of using a parcel carrier. The shipper often has a regular, if not daily, pickup schedule and can log onto the carriers homepage to schedule pickups, track shipments, print paperwork, and manage billing information.

Zone skipping

"Zone skipping" is the use of LTL carriers to transport parcels to a parcel carrier's hub near the load's final destination instead of relying on the parcel carrier for end-to-end delivery. The term "zone skipping" refers to the LTL carrier bypassing the parcel carrier's traditional "zones", which allows the shipper to avoid charges incurred by the parcels crossing multiple zones en route from the shipper to the final destination. For example, if a shipper in North Carolina has 500 parcels bound for California, 250 bound for New York, and 250 bound for Indiana, the shipper will segregate the parcels by their destination, combine the segregated parcels into loads, and use LTL carriers to transport the loads to the parcel carrier's hubs in that state or region; the parcel carrier will then unpack the load that was delivered and transport the individual parcels to their final destinations. This method can allow for substantial savings, particularly if the parcels would have to cross multiple parcel carrier zones if transported by the parcel carrier from end-to-end, and also reduces the possibility of loss on the parcel carrier's part (since all parcels for a destination will arrive at the hub at the same time).

Many shippers prefer to not use such methods as they prefer to only contract with one service provider, because using a LTL carrier and a parcel carrier adds another point of failure for the shipper's operations (that is, something can go wrong during the grouping of all parcels into one load at the LTL carrier entry point).

Preparing shipments for LTL carriers

Freight sent via LTL carriers must be handled several times during transit, often by different carriers. It must be packaged to protect it from scuffing, vibration, crushing, dropping, humidity, condensation. Thus it is normally good practice to load freight onto pallet
A pallet , sometimes called a skid, is a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, front loader or other jacking device. A pallet is the structural foundation of a unit load which allows handling and storage efficiencies...

s or package freight into crate
A crate is a large shipping container, often made of wood, typically used to transport large, heavy or awkward items. A crate has a self-supporting structure, with or without sheathing. For a wooden container to be a crate, all six of its sides must be put in place to result in the rated strength...

s. Sturdy shipping container
Shipping container
A shipping container is a container with strength suitable to withstand shipment, storage, and handling. Shipping containers range from large reusable steel boxes used for intermodal shipments to the ubiquitous corrugated boxes...

s such as corrugated fiberboard boxes are normally acceptable as well. Carriers have published tariffs that provide some guidance for packaging. Packaging engineers design and test packaging to meet the specific needs of the logistics
Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of destination in order to meet the requirements of customers or corporations. Logistics involves the integration of information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, and packaging, and...

 system and the product being shipped.

Proper packaging freight serves several purposes:
  • It helps protect the freight from handling and transit damage.
  • It helps protect other freight from being damaged by your freight.
  • It helps reduce package pilferage
    Package pilferage
    Pilferage is the theft of part of the contents of a package. It may also include theft of the contents but leaving the package, perhaps resealed with bogus contents. Small packages can be pilfered from a larger package such as a shipping container...

  • It helps to avoid loss situations; situations in which some of your freight is separated from the rest and lost in transit.

Since freight sent via LTL carriers is subject to misrouting or misloading it is a good practice to put the Tracking number on each side of each piece of freight. If the Destination State and Zipcode are affixed to each side as well misloading is less likely to occur. Even though it is not required it is good practice to affix a relatively large label including four letter Carrier Code, Tracking Number, Destination Station, and Destination Zipcode of the shipment (i.e. ABFS123456789 GA 30301). The easier it is for dockworkers to identify an individual shipment the less likely it is to be put in the wrong place. The value or type of contents should not be advertised on the package to help reduce losses. If the only piece of identification is the tracking number the dockworker will have a harder time identifying the shipments pieces and as such the chances of freight being loaded onto the wrong trailer is greater thereby increasing the transit time and also increasing the chances of the shipment being lost. Proper label
A label is a piece of paper, polymer, cloth, metal, or other material affixed to a container or article, on which is printed a legend, information concerning the product, addresses, etc. A label may also be printed directly on the container or article....

s, bar codes, and RFID are important for proper routing and delivery.

Intermodal transportation of LTL shipping

Not all LTL shipments travel by truck only. LTL carriers rely on rail
Rail transport
Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the tracks they run on...

 or air
Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Aviation is derived from avis, the Latin word for bird.-History:...

 to forward some freight toward its destination. LTL carriers are normally able to deal with railroads more effectively than small shippers are able to as LTL carriers typically send a large volume of freight each and every day. LTL carriers are able to monitor railroad performance to ensure delivery of freight within the specified delivery window. An Intermodal freight transport
Intermodal freight transport
Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation , without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The method reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damages and...

 shipment employs several methods of transporting goods from start to finish. For instance one shipment will start out on the railroad, then be transferred to an ocean carrier, and end up on a truck before delivery.

Intermodal shipping is considered advantageous by some shippers because there is no handling of the freight when it changes from one carrier to the next. Pallet
A pallet , sometimes called a skid, is a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, front loader or other jacking device. A pallet is the structural foundation of a unit load which allows handling and storage efficiencies...

s are used to consolidate many things into one easy-to-move container. Because handling is reduced it also reduces damage and loss, increases security, and allows the items to be transported more quickly.