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Frequently Asked Question!
The primary differences between less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload (TL) shipments are the amount of space they occupy in a trailer and how they’re transported.
LTL freight is larger than parcel but doesn’t fill an entire trailer (typically less than 15,000 lbs.). Basically, several smaller shipments are combined to fill an entire 28-foot pup trailer. Rates are based on space used, weight, freight class, accessorials, and where it’s traveling from and to — and rates are often pre-established. LTL shipments travel through a “hub and spoke” network (making multiple stops at service centers between the shipper and consignee). Customers who ship LTL like that it’s cost effective and allows for flexibility.
Truckload freight shipments are larger than LTL, taking up all or most of the space on a truck (typically 15,000 to 45,000+ pounds). Contract carriers typically transport truckload shipments, and rates are negotiated on a per-load basis (determined by the market, supply and demand). Because loads are not consolidated and the carrier picks up and drives straight to the destination, transit times are often faster. Truckload offerings include equipment like 53-foot dry vans, flatbeds, refrigerated units, intermodal containers and other specialized equipment.
Parcel shipments are small, lightweight, individually packaged and labeled, and they typically weigh 75 pounds or less. However, most parcel carriers allow shipments of up to 150 pounds and 165” in length + girth. Freight, on the other hand, is any shipment that weighs more than 150 pounds and is normally boxed, palletized or crated.
Figuring out shipping rates can be complex. LTL prices are based on the NMFC system (more on that in Question 4), and truckload prices fluctuate with the market. Expedite rates also are determined differently based on how soon you need the freight to arrive. Regardless of what you’re shipping, the following factors help determine the rate:
- Commodity (used to find class for LTL)
- Mode of transportation (ground, air, sea or rail)
- Shipment dimensions (cubic footage)
- Origin and destination
A Bill of Lading (BoL) is a form that details the journey of a shipment. It identifies the commodity, serves as a receipt, and functions as a legally binding contract between the carrier and shipper. A BoL is necessary before freight pick up and transportation. You can be prepared by learning more about bills of lading including what information is required.
Freight travels by a variety of modes — ground, rail, ocean and air. The equipment that’s used for each of these modes depends on customer requirements and what and where you’re shipping. Take a look at this infographic to see the variety of transportation options available.
How freight is packaged varies based on what it is and the equipment hauling it. Should you use pallets, crates or cardboard boxes? Does it need to travel in a temperature-controlled setting, or can it be in a dry van? Planning the best way to move your freight plays a crucial role in how safely it travels, and proper packaging reduces the likelihood of damage. You can refer to the following blog posts for tips on packing certain types of shipments, or contact ArcBest customer solutions for a review of your freight shipping needs.
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