What is LTL Freight?

What is LTL Freight?

Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) is a mode of transportation that operates combining freight from multiple shippers on the same trailer. 

Shipping via LTL is a more economical and efficient mode of transportation for customers who ship freight in smaller quantities than a full truckload or that are going to multiple destinations. LTL freight is typically heavier and larger than a package, palletized, and doesn’t require the capacity of a full truckload. 

OD’s LTL shipping operates with a hub-and-spoke model, much like modern airlines.  For example, when you travel from Chicago to Miami, you might make a stop in Dallas to switch planes. Similarly, LTL freight moves from hub to hub. At each stop, the carrier moves shipments from one trailer to another, consolidating them with freight going to the same ultimate destination. If your freight is picked up in Louisville, for instance, and needs to be delivered in Baltimore, it would first stop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the truck is loaded with other freight headed towards Baltimore. 

This model allows shipments to move continuously through the network for faster transit and it reduces the number of miles a truck travels to deliver shipments. This provides both flexibility for our customers and is beneficial for the environment. Customers only pay for the space they use on a trailer while sharing the cost with other shippers. They also benefit from rate stability because LTL pricing (unlike truckload pricing) is more insulated from market forces.

When should I use LTL freight shipping? 

  • LTL shipping is best when you do not require a full trailer.
  • You have freight that is going to multiple destinations.

What do I need to start an LTL shipment?

  • Set Up An Account: Establishing an account with an LTL carrier, like OD, provides the best rates tailored specifically to the type of shipment and routes you use, as well as a relationship with the carriers’ representatives, drivers, and operations team, who work together to ensure your freight arrives on-time and damage-free. 
  • Dimensions: Knowing your freight dimensions (Length, Width, and Height) is an important detail to ensure you get an accurate freight quote. LTL Carriers aim to maximize space in the truck and load freight efficiently. A standard pallet is 48” long x 40” wide x 48” high. Shipments that are outside of those standard dimensions can require additional handling; many carriers have an accessorial fee for overlength articles. 
  • Freight Quote: A freight quote for a standard LTL shipment is recommended but not required before scheduling a pickup. If you’re in a hurry, you can get an instant quote. If you have more time, we recommend setting up an account with OD for pricing tailored to your unique shipping needs. Contact your local Service Center or contact us below to get started. 
  • Bill of Lading: LTL carriers require a signed Bill of Lading (BOL) to pick up a shipment. A Bill of Lading lets the carrier know the details of the shipment, the paying party, the consignee (receiver) name and location, and any special requirements to get the freight delivered. Providing correct information on the BOL allows the carrier to generate an invoice that matches your rate estimate and deliver the shipment without delay.

What are the benefits of shipping with a National Carrier?

  • Efficient Costs: Shippers only pay for the portion of the trailer their shipment possesses. LTL carriers combine shipments going to similar destinations to efficiently move freight through their network, reducing costs for the shipper. 
  • Extensive network: National LTL carriers have extensive service center networks to handle your shipment dock-to-dock. They can also arrange for shipments to cross borders or travel internationally.
  • Personalized Solutions: LTL carriers often provide additional services such as expedited shipping, trade show shipping, and global services. These services are supported by leading technology, including API integrations, so you can integrate with your carrier to track each shipment.

Commonly Asked Questions about LTL Trucking

How do I make sure my freight quote is accurate? 

Providing complete and accurate information on weight, dimensions, and class when requesting a freight quote and on your Bill of Lading will help ensure your freight invoice matches the amount quoted prior to shipping. Including the specifications of your shipment on your BOL, such as freight class, dimensions, total weight, origin and destination addresses, additional services required for pickup or delivery and the correct paying party, will help prevent discrepancies between the freight quote and invoice amount as well as delivery delays.

What do I need to consider before choosing an LTL carrier? 

Not every LTL carrier provides the same level of service. This guide offers specific questions to ask a potential LTL carrier. Even if a carrier offers a lower initial price to ship, it is important to also consider the service they provide. The bottom line on your freight bill is only one element of your business’ total cost of transportation. To understand that total cost, you must consider potential problems like damaged shipments, delayed deliveries, fines, chargebacks, remanufacturing costs, overtime pay to your employees, and even damage to your reputation and relationship with your customer. At Old Dominion, through our industry-leading service, our shippers often reduce their total cost of transportation. We provide a premium service experience that you and your customers can count on.

What if I need my freight to arrive as soon as possible?

Most LTL carriers, including OD, offer expedited services. Whether your freight needs to deliver faster than the standard transit time, before noon, within a time-specific window, or even over a weekend, OD offers a full suite of Expedited services to get your freight where you need it, when you need it. You can learn more about OD’s Expedited Services here.

Interested in starting an LTL shipment?

Shippers choose Old Dominion for our premium service and one of the lowest claims rates in the industry. We take our role as a critical link within your supply chain with great responsibility and care.  Our team can help you access pricing tailored to your needs and ensure your freight arrives on-time and damage-free. Connect with a Solutions Specialist today.