Understanding LTL freight delays and how to work around them

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Delays to your LTL freight can be frustrating, and in the current crowded shipping market, they can be inevitable. The best way to combat unexpected LTL freight delays is to avoid delays that are unnecessary and preventable. In this guide, we will take a look at unavoidable freight delays that can occur during the course of your shipment’s journey and how to deal with them. We will also examine avoidable delays and how to utilize best practices to minimize setbacks.


High Volume/Capacity Limits

The most significant source of delays in today’s LTL freight market is demand. After the initial drop in LTL volume due to Covid, a surge in e-commerce over the past year and a half has overwhelmed carriers struggling to keep up operationally. As freight builds up at large hubs throughout the country and carriers try to move it out as quickly as possible, a domino effect of delays has occurred for many shipments.



In addition to the influx of e-commerce and general LTL freight volume, carriers have also struggled to recover from the layoffs, furloughs, and subsequent scarcity of equipment and drivers caused by Covid. Many companies were forced to close their doors for a time during the pandemic and have scrambled to rehire their workforce and adjust to strict new protocols and adhere to new state and county guidelines for safety, further slowing LTL operations and delaying transit times.



Unlike some of the more recent causes of freight delays, weather has always been an inevitable source of challenges in the shipping world. Storms, natural disasters, and erratic weather has long been the enemy of tight schedules and guaranteed transit times, causing damage, loss, and delays that cannot be helped. Because hubs and terminals operate on a first-in, first-out basis, weather delays can cause freight to stack up while carriers work to make up for lost time.



There are a number of preventative measures that can be taken to accommodate the unavoidable delays listed above. However, while some delays are inevitable, many result from improper planning, miscommunication, and other mistakes made by shippers and carriers. These preventable setbacks can also be dealt with by adjusting and adapting practices to ensure your LTL freight has the best chance of reaching its destination on time.


Allow Lead Time

One of the most important ways shippers can deal with any type of delay is to plan ahead. Adding a few extra shipping days to your standard transit times can help accommodate any unexpected problem or delay by setting more reasonable expectations. Shipping your freight as soon as it is ready, as early as possible, and tacking on extra transit time in case of delay can help make sure your LTL shipment’s arrival better matches the expectations of your customers.


Don’t Rely on “Guaranteed Service”

 Though your LTL carrier may offer “guaranteed service,” the current state of shipping has made it all but impossible to live up to the strict transit times outlined by this type of service, and many carriers have chosen to suspend “guaranteed service” as an option or do away with it altogether. Most carriers will communicate this change, but in case yours has not, make sure to contact your carrier directly to find out what shipping options are available and realistic for your freight.



The root of every mutually beneficial business relationship is proper communication. When it comes to potential delays, both avoidable and inevitable, sharing information between shippers, carriers, and customers is critical. Shippers must communicate all the necessary information regarding their shipment to carriers, and carriers must provide tracking information and updates to shippers. In addition, shippers must stay on top of any new developments or delays to their LTL freight in order to communicate effectively with their customers. Sharing information freely and thoroughly will allow all parties to manage their expectations and adjust to any disruptions to their shipping and supply lines.


Make Sure Information/Paperwork is Accurate

One of the most common preventable causes of LTL freight delays is human error. Inaccurate paperwork or information regarding delivery addresses, points of contact, or special delivery requirements can cause missed pickups and deliveries and exacerbate scheduling delays. To prevent these kinds of delays, make sure to double-check, cross reference, confirm, and communicate all relevant information about a shipment to all parties involved.

By following these tips and staying aware of the potential delays that may occur while your cargo is in transit, you can navigate unexpected challenges, manage expectations, and minimize setbacks to your LTL freight.

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