What is Volume LTL Shipping and When Should You Use It?
If you ship larger LTL freight loads frequently, you may consider utilizing a shipping method known as volume LTL shipping. Volume LTL freight is a particular type of shipping that falls between standard less-than-truckload (LTL) and full-truckload (FTL) sized shipments and leverages otherwise unused trailer space. Follow this guide to determine if your shipment qualifies as volume LTL freight and whether using it could benefit your business.
What is volume LTL freight?
Volume LTL shipping generally refers to shipments that are larger and heavier than standard LTL loads but smaller than a full truckload (FTL) shipment. While different carriers have different parameters for what qualifies as a volume LTL shipment (and some do not offer it at all), they usually range from 6 to 24 pallets, filling up 12 to 32 linear feet of space in a trailer or weighing at least 5,000 pounds.
How Does Volume LTL Differ From Standard LTL Freight?
Standard LTL freight shipping typically involves LTL carriers picking up shipments from various shippers and bringing them to a hub to be sorted and consolidated based on where they are going. Shipments are then long hauled to hubs closer to their final destinations, reorganized, and delivered by a driver making multiple local stops. This shipping model relies on carriers being able to combine many shipments and keep trucks as filled as possible when on the road. Despite this, there are often circumstances where there is empty capacity available in some trailers. This is where volume LTL shipping comes into play. Volume LTL shipping is offered as a way for carriers to fill the empty spaces on their trailers to maximize capacity and avoid trucks driving empty miles, which can waste fuel, labor, and time. It is an excellent way for shippers to secure a cheaper shipping rate for larger shipments with a lot of flexibility that can wait for volume LTL capacity to become available.
Pros and Cons of Volume LTL Shipping
Volume shipping, unlike standard LTL, does not utilize the NMFC freight classification system to determine rates. Because volume LTL capacities are often available on short notice to fill space for backhauls or canceled shipments, volume shipping rates offered by carriers are determined by specific circumstances and tend to be significantly lower to reflect their lack of flexibility and standardization. For this reason, volume shipping is a great way to save money for shippers looking to move large, last-minute, and high freight class shipments and have time flexibility to wait for a cheap spot rate. In today’s shipping climate of tight capacities and frequent delays, volume shipping can provide a supplemental alternative to shippers’ existing networks. Volume LTL shipping is also a safer way to ship, as shipments typically remain on the trailer for the entire journey instead of being unloaded and loaded at transit hubs along the way, meaning less handling and less potential for damage.
There are some drawbacks as well. Volume LTL shipping relies on short notice availability, so shippers are at the mercy of carrier schedules and when capacity becomes available, which can change time frames, lengthen transit times, and make arrival dates unpredictable. Some carriers do not offer the same accessorial services for volume shipments as they would for standard LTL shipments, so if you require a liftgate or other special service, volume LTL may not fulfill your needs. The cargo liability limits on volume LTL freight are also lower than standard LTL. The average liability limit for standard LTL shipments, depending on the freight class of the items, is usually between $5 and $25 per pound. The average liability is only $1 per pound for volume LTL shipments, meaning it is not a good option for higher value shipments that require greater liability while in transit.
Is Volume LTL Shipping Right for You?
Volume LTL shipping can be a win-win for shippers and carriers. It can be a great way for shippers to save money shipping larger, low-liability, time-flexible shipments. For carriers, it is a useful tool to fill unused capacity and make money on an otherwise empty backhaul route or unfilled trailer. Each carrier has slightly different parameters for what qualifies as volume LTL freight and how shipments are priced, so be sure to ask your freight provider and compare carriers to determine whether volume LTL freight shipping is right for you and your business.