Mar 26, 2015

Depending on your situation, there are a number of advantages to LTL (less than truckload) shipping. From the variety of options of where items can be delivered (such as residential areas) to the consistency of delivery timetables, LTL is both flexible and dependable.

But the biggest advantage of LTL transport is cost savings.

LTL shipping is designed around saving you money for loads that are too big for parcel but too small to fill a truck. The question is are you maximizing the amount of money you’re saving? Here are some simple tips to make sure you’re getting the most (financially speaking) out of your LTL services.

1. Make Sure LTL is the Best Option
It should go without saying, but some are quick to assume that since LTL has saved them money in the past, it’s automatically the best option for smaller deliveries. However, if you’re shipping 20,000 pounds or more than 6 pallets, LTL might not be the way to go. For these larger orders, PTL (partial truckload) mode, is usually a better choice.

If you’re working with a 3PL, parameters should be set-up in their transportation management system (TMS) to ensure that the best cost options are chosen, based on shipment size and destination.

2. Establish Routines. Establish Relationships.
LTL works best when it’s running like a machine. Loads travel between different hubs on pre-established routes. Advances in technology have really helped customers get visibility to their shipments. Carrier websites track the life of your order, providing date/time stamps for the different stops along a route, estimated delivery dates and actual delivery receipts.

Either the carrier or your 3PL should provide you with tracking and delivery confirmation reports for all of your shipments. Again, a nice benefit of using a 3PL is that all of your shipment tracking data and costs will appear on one website or on a daily report.

3. Be Flexible. Time is Money.
Because your shipment isn’t filling up a truck, it’s being shipped with other items that are going to other places. This means that while you’re saving money, the time it takes to ship something might be a little longer than other options.

The more flexible you can be with what routes your freight is moved across and how long it takes for it to get to its destination, the more you’re likely to save. That said, it’s important that your carriers are making their deadlines. Remember, though LTL might take longer, it’s routes and timetables are more predictable. Keep in mind, standard LTL service may not deliver according to the estimated time in transit; therefore, if you have a “hot” shipment that must be delivered to a customer, consider guaranteed or expedited service for the order.

When your LTL shipments are consistently arriving later than originally projected, it might be time to switch things up. If you’re using a third-party logistics company to handle LTL and they’re falling behind, you may want to consider a new partner. If you’re not partnering with a 3PL at all, maybe it’s time to.

4. Using a Third Party Logistics Provider
A Thirty Party Logistics (3PL) company can be a very valuable resource when it comes to LTL. Because they’re already handling logistics for multiple companies across multiple areas, they have pre-established routes, relationships, carriers, and everything else you need to get your LTL where it needs to be for an affordable price. Chances are, they already have freight going near where you need your own freight to go, and they can get it there for less than you can.

Also, using a 3PL, puts all of your shipment data under one roof. This is important and critical for analyzing year over year (YOY) trends and to illustrate actual freight cost controls and potential savings.
Lastly, your 3PL should be your trusted advisor, providing industry expertise and solutions to ensure you manage your company’s overall freight spend.

Needless to say, if you’re doing LTL on your own and you’re struggling to make it efficient in terms of costs and analysis, working with a 3PL might be the easiest, but most important decision you can make.