With the LTL, or less than truckload, market currently worth about $35 billion and set to grow fast in coming years, it has never been easier to get LTL shipping services. Whether you need pharmaceutical logistics, have trade show freight to ship, or are looking for industrial machinery transport, how do you choose an LTL shipping service that can offer the service, security, and price you need?
Track Your Data
It’s crucial that you track the right data in order to zero in on the freight service that is offering you the best performance metrics. Without tracking, you could end up thinking that the cheapest LTL shipping is always the best. But if LTL freight services are failing in other ways, tracking could reveal that the “cheapest” LTL freight rates are actually a false economy for you. Here is some of what you should be tracking:
- Freight damage rates There is going to be damage. No one wants it, but it’s a fact of life. You should be tracking when, where, and why it happens in order to keep damage to an absolute minimum and identify which carriers are delivering your goods most safely.
- Cost per shipment In order to get an accurate count here, you’ll want to figure out the average cost with any one carrier. That means tracking all the loads and getting an average.
- Time performance If your LTL shipping is cheap but the carrier can’t be relied upon to deliver on time, then you might not be saving the money you think you are. Late loads can mean extra costs for you.
- Accuracy of billing LTL shipping can get complicated and convoluted. You need a carrier that has developed a mature system for making sure that bills and invoices are always accurate. Even with the best system, mistakes will occasionally happen, so it’s also important to have a carrier that can correct mistakes quickly.
Consider Geographical Coverage
Another issue that may affect your LTL shipments is the coverage you can get with any individual carrier. The vast majority of carriers only service a particular region, so it can be important to find out which is the optimal carrier for your distribution network.
Carrier liability insurance rates vary. The cheapest rates can be as little as a dollar a pound. The average is more like $10 a pound. At the upper end of the spectrum, you can expect $25 a pound and more. It all comes down to what you need, what your product is worth, and even whether your LTL shipping load is a used or new product.
Depending on your shipping needs, it may be crucial to you that your carrier offer flexibility with pricing. Of course, everyone is interested in a discount if they can get it, but you’ll also want to ask about minimum charge floors, accessorial fees, FAK provisions, and volume discounts on large shipments.
If you’ve got a carrier that’s treating its drivers like garbage, you may get drivers that are at best disinterested, and at worst may even be using shipments to make up the income they’re not getting from their job. Carriers that push their drivers to drive when they’re tired or who fail to service their rigs aren’t trustworthy. It doesn’t matter how low their prices are: you’re risking a lot sending any shipments with companies like these.
A last crucial question is how financially stable a carrier is. Are they turning a profit? Are they carrying considerable debt? If a carrier is deeply in debt or is not making a profit, your loads could be at risk when the whole thing goes belly up. If a carrier is offering discounts that are just too deep, that could be a sign that they’re running into trouble and are trying desperately to stay afloat.
There’s usually no one perfect carrier for every shipment and every geographic region. It’s worth making sure that you consider geography, pricing flexibility, financial stability, insurance coverage, and driver treatment as you choose a carrier for your LTL shipping needs. As you work with carriers, you also need to be tracking performance metrics to make sure you figure out which one is providing the best service for your unique shipping needs.