First-time LTL shipper? Read this before you ship.

Image of trucks lined up in a parking lot

Don’t worry. You’re not alone. The world of logistics can sometimes be unclear or confusing, especially to new shippers. Taking a moment to understand how all the moving pieces come together can make all the difference. We have compiled a list of tips to help you avoid common mistakes that result in delays, disruptions or additional charges so you can have a good LTL experience.

Tip #1: Don’t lie about the weight on your Bill of Lading 

Since shipping rates are based on how heavy, large or dense your shipment is, most first-time LTL shippers are often tempted to misrepresent the weight of their items to get better rates. More often than not, Carriers will use their own scale to weigh your shipment if they suspect an item is heavier than what is listed on the Bill of Lading. If there is any discrepancy then there will be an additional fee added to your shipment. Another common reason the weight can be inaccurate is if the shipper forgot to account for the additional weight of the pallet and packing material.    

Tip #2: Don’t lie about your Freight Class

Determining Freight Class confuses even the most experienced LTL shippers. Since a higher Freight Class means a more expensive shipment, most first-time LTL shippers are tempted to declare a lower class for better rates. However, Carriers will usually re-class shipment if they feel the original Freight Class was not accurate; this will result in additional fees for the shipper. The best thing first-time LTL shippers can do is work with their brokers to determine the correct Freight Class. In fact, Koho has a built in Freight Class calculator on our self-service platform.

Tip #3: Make sure the billing information is correct on your Bill of Lading 

The Bill of Lading is a critical component of LTL shipping. Aside from displaying information about the weight, class and description of the shipment the BOL also highlights the address and billing information of who will be receiving the shipment. Oftentimes Carriers will receive handwritten BOL making it difficult to authenticate the information and know who to charge for any additional fees that might come up. Despite your best efforts to verify all the information on your BOL there might still be an error, in that instance, don’t panic. Contact your broker so they can reach out to the Carrier directly with a letter of authorization for the new billing party. 

Tip #4: Make sure your freight is packaged correctly 

In order to avoid shipment damage it is imperative that your freight is properly packaged to withstand all the movement on the truck. LTL drivers are juggling multiple shipments and moving them across different docks, terminals and delivery locations. By securely packaging your shipment you are enabling the driver to have a successful delivery. A good rule of thumb is to always use a pallet or crate and also package smaller items together so they won’t get separated. 

Tip #5: Make sure you understand what “Transit Time” really means. 

One of the biggest adjustments for first-time LTL shippers is understanding the concept of “transit time.” As a budget option, LTL is not designed for time-sensitive shipments. Transit time is a loose time-frame estimating the time it will take to get the freight from the origin terminal to the destination terminal. It’s safe to assume that the freight will need an additional 1 to 2 business days to arrive at its final destination. Though you can purchase “guaranteed” or “accelerated” service it’s important to note that transit time does not take weekends, holidays, weather or traffic into account. Bottom line, understanding how transit time in LTL works will help you have realistic expectations about when your freight will actually get delivered. 

Tip #6: Make sure your accessorials are listed on your BOL

Accessorials are the additional services needed to make a successful delivery (i.e lift gate service, residential drop-offs etc). If your freight needs specific accommodations they must be written on the Bill of Lading so the LTL truck driver understands how they will need to deliver your shipment. If the accessorial are not designated on the BOL it can cause delays because the driver will have to contact the shipper to confirm the additional services and have additional fees charged. When in doubt, ask your broker about any accessorial services they anticipate your shipment needing. 

Tip #7: Make sure your pick-up and delivery time windows are long enough 

A common reason for missed pick-up or delivery is having limited time-frames that the shipper or receiver is available for the LTL driver. It is industry standard to maintain, at a minimum, a two hour window of availability. Given the unpredictable nature of all the components an LTL driver has to take into account, it's common to experience delays and disturbances. Having the widest possible window for both pick-up and delivery will help you have a better LTL experience. It’s best to schedule pick-ups in the morning and provide the largest window of availability possible. This will reduce the likelihood that you will have to deal with the stress of a missed pick up or delivery. 

Tip #8: Don’t forget to examine your freight for damage upon delivery 

Unfortunately, freight damage is all too common in LTL given the multiple stops and various forms of shipments in one truckload. If your freight is, in fact, damaged, then it is imperative that you note that fact on the Proof of Delivery form. This is essential for you to file a claim with the carrier. If you do not examine your freight right when it is delivered and note any damage on your POD then the carrier has no reason to believe that the damage to your freight took place during the transit. Once your delivery arrives, examine it for any breaks in packaging or signs of damage and take as many photos as possible. Make sure to file claims immediately because they are time-sensitive. 

Tip #9: Make sure to get insurance

Given the fact that freight damage is so common in LTL, insurance is always a good idea. Carriers will have their own insurance but it’s best to go with a third-party insurance because the coverage is usually better and the pay-outs for damaged freight is faster. Third party insurance is affordable, making it a good investment for high-value or fragile freight. If you purchase insurance with Koho, your freight is covered for 110% of it’s value. The exceptional coverage is made possible because we at Koho are backed by the industry leader, Expeditors. 

Tip #10: Check to see if you need special permits 

Though many items can ship LTL there are some items that require special permits and licenses to move from state-to-state; these items can include alcohol, perishable items or hazardous materials. Most first-time shippers might not realize that they need any special permit or license but if a carrier realizes the lack of adequate approvals they will not pick up the freight. It’s important to do this research prior to your shipment so you can avoid any confusion or delays. 

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