Business / Reading time: ~ 4 Min.

How to organize your less than truckload (LTL) efficiently

Businesses cannot always wait for enough orders to fill a complete load. Here, LTL shipments are an option. But what are the advantages and disadvantages? And how does pricing work? Read on and find out.

A lone truck on the highway. Cargos sometimes comprise goods from a wide variety of shippers. That makes transporting less than truckloads more efficient.
One for all: Trucks often carry different loads for different customers. Combining several less than truckloads increases efficiency.

It is estimated that between 30 and 50 percent of trucks on Europe's roads are unladen. COVID-19 and Brexit have made empty runs more common because many routes do not involve a return cargo.

But transporting thin air is a problem. Because:

  • They cost shippers and forwarders money and make goods more expensive,
  • they are inefficient because they waste capacity,
  • they cause unnecessary pollution.

With better planning it would be possible to significantly reduce the number of journeys involving partial or empty loads. It is often impossible for shippers to fully load a truck with goods, but instead of driving with a half-empty cargo bed, they could always opt for less than truckloads transportation (LTL).

What is LTL?

LTL stands for “Less Than a Truckload” and is widely used in logistics. As is FTL (Full Truckload) and PTL (Partial Truckload). PTL usually involves more cargo than LTL, and like FTL is driven straight to its destination without detours or reloading.

What counts as LTL?

As a rule, freight forwarders define an LTL load according to its dimensions in cubic meters and weight. At DHL Freight, freight is considered LTL if it occupies a maximum of six pallet spaces and weighs a maximum of 2,500 kg.

How is the price for LTL cargo calculated?

It depends on several factors:

  • on the transport company,
  • on the utilization of the cargo bed,
  • and the size and weight of the cargo
  • on the distance to the destination 
  • on the cargo requirements such as refrigeration,
  • insurance and the current surcharges in the respective country.
Cartons are stacked on pallets. Up to six pallet spaces may be occupied by an LTL shipment at DHL Freight.
At DHL Freight, an LTL shipment consists of up to six pallets.

How many pallets can a truck usually carry?

How many euro pallets a truck can transport depends on the type of vehicle – while a 26-ton truck has room for 15 full pallets, a modern articulated lorry can carry 38.

What advantages do LTL shipments have?

Customers today demand fast and reliable delivery from companies. That is why shippers often do not want to wait for a complete truck load. Here, LTL offers one possible solution. When freight forwarders combine several partial loads in one truck, it improves cargo bed utilization and the shipments CO2 footprint. In addition, individual shippers save costs by sharing the cargo space.

What are the disadvantages of LTL?

  • Trucks carrying LTL usually make several stops since goods from different shippers have to be loaded and unloaded. Thus, LTL shipments have a higher risk of being damaged than FTL shipments, which usually go non-stop from A to B without reloading.
  • Waiting times can occur at each loading and unloading point, delaying the entire shipment.
  • Partial loads are more expensive than the same volume of a full load since partial loads pose a greater organizational challenge for transport companies, who have to calculate the freight space precisely, coordinate the routes and allow more time for loading and unloading.
  • Not all goods can be transported with other goods. For example, dangerous goods, certain chemicals and raw products are unsuitable for LTL transport.

Why do companies still use LTL?

To remain flexible. Thanks to LTL, shippers can also get small product batches to their destination quickly. What is more, LTL can also be financially worthwhile for shippers. For example, the first LTL customer pays less than they would if they had an entire truck half laden. Additional customers can save by accepting offers on the remaining freight space. They only pay the additional costs incurred for loading and distances.

Things to pay attention to when using LTL

  • Make sure weight and size specifications are accurate. If a shipment does not meet the carrier's LTL criteria, the driver may refuse it.
  • Do not pack your shipment just before pickup. Depending on traffic volumes and loading processes, trucks may arrive at the next loading point sooner than expected. If the goods are not ready, it will slow down the entire shipment.
  • Do not ship original documents with the cargo on the truck bed. They could get lost.
  • Tracking tools are not just a nice-to-have. Use tracking actively. That way, you can take early countermeasures if unforeseen events delay the shipment.
  • When you receive freight, a quick glance is not enough. Check immediately upon receipt of the shipment to ensure that nothing has been damaged.

How do I prepare my cargo for pallet shipment?

Partial loads must be well packed so that they can survive trips on bumpy roads in one piece without damaging other shippers´ goods. More tips here!

Common packing mistakes

  • Using unsuitable packaging. Insufficiently filled boxes run the risk of being crushed. Overloaded packages can burst open.
  • Heavily taped up cargo. This can drag out inspections at customs.
  • Sticky tape or twine is not a good way to secure an item.
  • Labels or stickers for fragile goods (“Fragile”, “Handle with care”) are no substitute for careful packing. They are for information purposes only.

Finding a good shipper: What services does DHL Freight offer?

With its standard DHL Freight EuroConnect product and premium DHL Freight Eurapid product, DHL Freight has two high-quality LTL offerings in its portfolio. DHL Freight also transports temperature-controlled partial loads and high-security shipments. All products feature fixed transit times, door-to-door delivery, optional customs clearance and freight insurance, as well as shipment tracking, which allows shippers to track the current location of their road freight online. Thanks to its network, DHL Freight connects Europe´s major commercial regions with a delivery day specific service that covers more than 95 percent of business addresses.  

How much do LTL shipments cost at DHL Freight?

DHL Freight provides LTL shippers with free online quotations for international freight shipments up to 2,500 kg. With no registration required, users receive price and transit time information for their individual shipments. The online tool is available in 28 countries and languages across Europe.

Thanks to its network, DHL Freight connects Europe's major commercial regions with a delivery day specific service that covers more than 95 percent of business addresses.

How sustainable is LTL freight?

That depends on the shipper. Sustainability is becoming an important factor in finding a good shipper. At DHL Freight, the LTL premium DHL Freight Eurapid product has been 100 percent environmentally friendly since 2020. The CO2 emissions produced by Eurapid are fully offset via recognized climate protection schemes and customers benefit from certified climate-neutral transport at no extra cost.

I am a freight forwarder and my trucks often return unladen – how can I avoid empty runs?

So, let’s talk about the Saloodo! digital logistics platform. Saloodo! offers small businesses with irregular shipping requirements a neutral freight brokerage service and freight forwarders the ability to add cargo to their loads and avoid running empty.

Get organized!

Pallets: everything you need to know
Saloodo!: How you benefit from the digital freight platform

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