Setting expectations; Less-than-Truckload transit time

Image of trucks lined up in a parking lot

Since LTL carriers have to accommodate multiple shipments in one truckload the initial freight transit time quoted might increase for your shipment. Understanding how less-than-truckload transit times work will help you operate your supply chain more efficiently and have a better experience with your carrier.

The most important thing to understand about LTL transit time is that your carrier is only referencing the long-haul part of the trip. You will need to add a day for both pick-up and delivery. And, it’s important to note that LTL freight is not moved on weekends. 

For example, you might have booked a LTL shipment on Tuesday and the carrier provides a 3-day freight transit time. Here’s a breakdown of how that freight will likely move: 

  1. You booked your LTL shipment on Tuesday
  2. Your shipment is picked up on Wednesday
  3. The first long haul transit for your shipment happens on Thursday
  4. The second long haul transit for your shipment happens on Friday
  5. The freight is not in transit over the weekend
  6. The third long haul transit for your shipment happens on Monday. 
  7. The freight is delivered on Tuesday. 

Though it took a week for your shipment to get delivered, the freight was only in transit for 3-days like the carrier originally stated. In general your freight will be on at least three different carrier trucks before it’s delivered - one for pick-up, one for transit and one for delivery. This will naturally contribute to longer transit times. 

Another factor to keep in mind when setting expectations is whether you are shipping commercial or residential. In general, commercial shipments will have priority because delivering to a commercial location is a bit more predictable in terms of available roads and available docks. Weather can also play a big role in how much your transit time expands. Hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, fires, floods will all restrict access and increase the time it will take to make the delivery. 

Given how many factors of uncertainty make up the LTL shipment it is best practice to book early and ship early.

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