As a business, you have numerous options for how you ship your goods. Companies that ship out large quantities of cargo may fill entire truckloads regularly. Others may have different shipping needs that require smaller loads or pallets full of cargo. In these situations, you may want to consider shipping options like less-than-truckload shipping.
Read on to learn more about less-than-truckload shipping, how it works and how it can benefit your company.
What Is Less-Than-Truckload Shipping?
Less-than-truckload shipping, also known as less-than-load (LTL) shipping, refers to small cargo shipments that are less than a full truckload. LTL shipments only fill a portion of a trailer rather than the entire thing. Smaller shippers often prefer LTL services, as they allow them to move smaller loads more frequently at a more cost-effective price.
Shippers typically only pay for the amount of trailer space their freight occupies. Since you’re only paying for a portion of the trailer, this shipping method can help you reduce shipping costs. A truck carrying LTL freight often contains several shipments from different shippers — since the shipments are all going to similar destinations, shipping companies use several of them to fill up the trailer.
LTL shipping also lets companies prevent wholesalers from running out of their products. When companies wait for a store to have room to restock their inventory with a full truckload of goods, they risk the store running out of stock. Without products on the shelves, they face a potential loss of sales. Companies can send frequent LTL shipments to avoid this by ensuring a more dependable and available inventory.
What Is Considered Less Than a Truckload?
LTL is a specific service trucking companies can offer to help you get each shipment out, even if it takes up minimal space on the truck. Here are a few common types of shipments that can benefit from LTL shipping:
- Smaller shipments: A load is considered an LTL shipment if it’s smaller and doesn’t require a full trailer. For example, companies may send out smaller inventory shipments more often, as mentioned above. Small businesses may also regularly send out smaller loads.
- Palletized or crated items: Many palletized or crated shipments are considered LTL. These packing methods help optimize the space you use on a trailer, allowing you to ship high quantities of goods in minimal space. Pallets and crates are typically covered in shrink wrap to protect the goods and ensure the efficient use of space.
- Large, bulky items: Large or bulky items are often best shipped LTL. Since they take up a lot of space or have awkward shapes, LTL shipping tends to be more cost-efficient for these items.
How Does Less-Than-Truckload Shipping Work?
LTL shipping typically uses a spoke and hub distribution model. Local trucking companies or terminals are the spokes that all connect to the main distribution centers, which serve as central hubs. Like a wooden wheel, the outer spokes connect to the central hub to provide structure and support.
LTL shipping involves transporting goods using several different trucks and legs of shipment, ultimately depending on route efficiency and where a driver is going. After a courier picks up a shipment, it goes to a local terminal. There, the logistics company will sort, consolidate and load it on an LTL truck with other shipments that are going to a similar destination. For example, multiple shipments going to a particular city or state may be loaded on the same truck.
From there, shipments travel to the main distribution centers, where they can sort the shipments again. Those that have reached their final destination will transfer to last-mile delivery trucks that handle the last stretch for local deliveries. The rest of the shipments will transfer to trucks that will take them to the next hub.
Because numerous factors can affect how a shipment moves, delivery can take longer with LTL shipping. For example, the shipment may take an indirect route to its final destination. Alternatively, a truck may face a delay at a distribution center as it waits for enough shipments to fill its trailer before it leaves.
Less-Than-Truckload Shipping Pros and Cons
Less-than-truckload shipping is a unique trucking service requiring high coordination and logistics to ensure maximum cost-efficiency and profitability. As with any shipping method, it has its pros and cons.
Depending on your shipment needs, these LTL benefits may outweigh the potential downfalls:
- Cost-efficiency: The most significant benefit of LTL shipping is cost-efficiency. Since you only pay for the space your cargo occupies, and other businesses cover the rest of the shipping space and cost, you can reduce your overall shipping costs.
- Shipment tracking: Complicated shipping requires a firm grasp of the logistics involved. One benefit of those logistics is that LTL services often include the ability to track your cargo. With ongoing tracking, you and your recipient can monitor the shipment as it makes its way through distribution.
- NMFTA regulation: The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) sets and regulates industry standards for LTL pricing, packaging and more. These standards help to control rates for LTL shipments rather than leaving it up to market conditions.
If you’re considering LTL shipping as an option for your company, you should also be sure to weigh the possibilities of:
- Longer shipping times: As mentioned above, LTL shipping times can be longer depending on where a truck is going. While LTL services are typically reliable, they may not be the best choice if you’re trying to get an urgent shipment to its destination as quickly as possible. However, in cases where shipping time is more flexible, LTL shipping may be ideal.
- Increased handling: The likelihood of increased handling is another potential downside to LTL shipping. This factor depends on how many transfers your shipment needs to reach its destination. Workers will need to handle your shipment each time it transfers to a new truck or goes through a distribution center. Increased handling can raise the risk of a shipment being damaged or lost.
Trust Street Fleet Courier and Logistics for Your LTL Shipping Needs
Looking for less-than-truckload shipping in Minneapolis and the surrounding area? Trust Street Fleet to properly handle and deliver your LTL and freight shipments. At Street Fleet, we offer customized solutions, competitive rates and professional, efficient performance. For more information or to start shipping with us, call us at 612-623-9999 or submit a request online.