Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping, a method of transporting freight that does not require a full truckload, has become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. When shipping LTL freight, the shipper pays for the portion of a standard truck trailer their freight occupies, while other shippers and their shipments fill the unoccupied space. This provides many benefits to shippers and carriers – from cost to speed to environmental efficiency.
LTL is a fantastic option for shippers that meet the following criteria:
● Strict budget requirements for product shipment
● Origin to direct-to-consumer shipping
● Product is less than 20 lineal feet or 20,000 pounds
● Operates on a made-to-order model
LTL shipping is best utilized by partnering with a qualified third-party logistics (3PL) company who has a wealth of expertise in LTL shipping services. A good 3PL will identify when LTL is the best option and shippers won’t have to worry about coordinating with an LTL carrier to get their LTL freight moved – a 3PL partner will handle all of it.
Here are 4 things a good 3PL partner will look for when it comes to identifying and executing LTL shipping opportunities:
1. Cost savings
One of the most significant benefits of LTL shipping is cost savings. Since the freight is consolidated with other smaller shipments, the cost of transportation is shared between multiple shippers. This means that each shipper only pays for the space their shipment takes up, making it a much more cost-effective option for smaller shipments.
As a result, shippers can save a considerable amount of money on shipping costs for these smaller shipments compared to using full truckload (FTL) shipping, where they must pay for the entire truckload even if they don't use all the space. LTL carriers also offer competitive pricing because they are able to optimize their routes and minimize empty miles, avoiding transporting an empty truck for part of the journey.
2. Flexible shipping options
LTL shipping offers flexibility when it comes to shipping options. Shippers can choose from a range of delivery options, including next-day, two-day or three-day delivery. LTL allows shippers to choose the shipping option that best suits their needs and budget.
LTL deliveries typically occur in the mornings to early afternoons, with new pickups following once the trailer is empty of deliveries. This is convenient for businesses that coordinate their shipping according to their production schedules. With LTL shipping, the need to wait until there is enough freight to fill an entire truck before shipping is eliminated.
This flexibility also means that LTL carriers can easily accommodate changing shipping needs. If there is a sudden increase in demand for products resulting in a need to ship more frequently, LTL carriers are flexible and can adjust their schedules to accommodate those needs.
3. Improved visibility
LTL shipping utilizes a hub-and-spoke model to consolidate shipments; meaning shipments are transported to a hub where they are consolidated with other shipments heading in the same direction. Once the truck is full, it is dispatched to its final destination.
With LTL shipping, each shipment is assigned a unique tracking number that allows the load to be tracked from pickup to delivery. This means 3PLs can easily monitor a shipment’s progress and ensure that it arrives at its destination on time. Working with a 3PL provider that offers LTL technology services gives you a single point of contact for centralized communications and updates.
3PLs can provide real-time updates on the location of shipments, estimated delivery times, and any delays or issues that arise during transit. This information allows shippers to stay in the know and make informed decisions about shipping strategies.
4. Increased sustainability
LTL shipping can help to increase sustainability by reducing the environmental impact of transportation. Because LTL carriers consolidate shipments from multiple shippers onto one truck, the number of trucks on the road and the amount of fuel consumed is reduced.
LTL carriers also use advanced routing and scheduling technology to optimize delivery routes, further reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
Beyond LTL: Hotshot shipping
Originating in the ’70s, the term “hotshot” referred to pickup trucks that quickly delivered critical parts to excavation operations. Today, the term has taken on a slightly different meaning in the supply chain.
Hotshot trucking refers to a service in which smaller, specialized vehicles are used to haul small, time-sensitive LTL freight as well as over-length items. For these shipments, the LTL carrier’s accessorial charges are considerably high, making their cost greater than that of a hotshot haul. While most hotshot loads tend to be local deliveries, others may be transported across state lines.
No matter the intended destination, these hot loads must be delivered immediately with zero touchpoints and at a reasonable cost. Finding a 3PL provider that offers wide and flexible LTL options like hotshot shipping is essential to shipper success and cost savings. Some benefits of using hotshot shipping include:
● Faster transit times than traditional LTL
● Reduced damages from zero handling touchpoints
● Cost savings
Hotshot shipping is a great option for shippers who need their freight moved quickly, and it is also great for high-value shipments thanks to zero touchpoints. Since LTL carriers are beholden to a rule tariff of no more than six skids on a truck at a time or loads exceeding eight feet, hotshot shipping is a great way to avoid the headache associated with compliance concerns and regulations all while experiencing dramatic cost savings.
A 3PL provider is essential to help determine if LTL or hotshot is the best value for a shipper’s smaller freight shipments.