Is LTL Right for You?

Written by Mike Osborne on . Posted in Third Party Logistics

One of the key decisions when shipping freight is determining which mode will be most cost effective and efficient while also ensuring the goods arrive in their proper condition. To inexperienced shippers the decisions appear obvious, but seasoned veterans understand the intricacies of shipping contracts and can identify when they are likely to incur unexpected expenses. The standard options for business shipping include:

  • Parcel
  • Less than truckload (LTL)
  • Full truckload (FTL)

Typically, LTL is reserved for smaller freight quantities that can be delivered on a couple of pallets. If the number of pallets going out is more than four, then most shippers compare LTL and FTL needs to be made due to LTL  Linear Foot Rules that are buried in the tariffs.

All carriers impose what is called the Linear Foot Rule, which is applicable to larger LTL shipments. The rule imposes parameters around the weight and size of a shipment, and if its limits are exceeded the cost to the client can multiple by three or four times the original quoted cost.

Perhaps more important to note is that the parameters defined by the Linear Foot Rule vary from company to company, and few shippers offer transparency about the rule. That means the rule is often not made apparent until the bill comes.

The increase in cost caused by the Linear Foot Rule means that selecting FTL for half truckloads is sometimes better than proceeding with LTL. In principle, you never want to pay for empty space in the back of a truck, but sometimes doing so is actually less costly than the penalties you may incur from surpassing your LTL parameters.

Lessor known solutions exists to help eliminate the inefficiencies associated with shipping large LTL shipments or half empty FTL shipments. They typically require a strong network of specialized carriers and/or robust transportation management software (TMS). Be sure to seek out a partner that has the experience and software that can effectively consider all shipment sizes in its solution offerings.