Posted On August 9, 2021
When it comes to freight transportation, shippers have options. In domestic ground shipping, the most common modes are parcel (single, small items that are transported via major national carriers like FedEx or UPS, usually for home delivery), less-than-truckload or LTL (anything from a single pallet to a large piece of machinery that weighs 10,000 pounds or less), and truckload or TL (a single shipment that is transported in a truck with no other freight).
But with the supply chain industry facing labor shortages and capacity issues, LTL freight shipping is becoming more expensive, and space more elusive. Changes in the market are making transportation mode decisions more critical than ever, as companies review their supply chain strategy and search for savings opportunities wherever they can. These tips can help logistics managers throughout the supply chain optimize their LTL freight while saving time and money.
1. Get creative with your freight.
Typically, shippers don’t have a choice in what shipment mode is best—the weight and size of the freight dictate whether it’s shipped LTL or via another mode. But with the industry’s current capacity limits and backlogs, and carriers looking for opportunities to move bulky and long freight shipments out of the LTL network, getting creative can help.
For example, a manufacturer shipping five separate LTL shipments on different trucks could consolidate them into one multi-stop truckload shipment. Or a wholesaler who routinely sends multiple SKUs to a retailer could hold all freight until they have enough for a truckload, and transport everything at the same time.
2. Use shipping technology to find the best LTL rates.
This should come as no surprise: Freight management gets a lot easier, and more cost-effective, with technology. But many shippers and logistics managers (between a quarter and a half of all shippers, depending on the survey) don’t use a transportation management system, or TMS.
Utilizing an advanced TMS to select the right carrier and mode takes just a few seconds: Enter the commodity, dimensions, weight and zip codes (or pull them in from an integrated system) and choose from a populated list of carriers and modes. Without technology, a shipper is less likely to find the best LTL freight rates for their business’ needs, and spend more than they need to on their supply chain.
3. Work with multiple LTL freight carriers.
Even outside of tumultuous industry conditions, shippers should partner with multiple freight carriers. At minimum, working with numerous carriers can help companies take advantage of the best freight rates. But there’s another important scenario that’s often overlooked.
When carriers have embargoes on certain terminals, zip codes or even specific city blocks, having alternate LTL carrier options is key. Technology comes into play here, too. Make sure your LTL management partner and technology stay up to date with the embargo information. For example, Flat World’s TMS technology, Pipeline and Pangea, won’t even show carrier options for a shipment if that carrier has an embargo on a point along the shipment’s journey. Otherwise, companies risk getting charged for shipping freight to a location the carrier has embargoed.
4. Beware of multiple carriers.
Ok, so we know we just said to partner with several carriers—but hear us out. Typically, companies and consumers want their individual freight shipments handled by only one carrier, because the more times the freight is handled and moved, the more likely it is to get damaged. However, that’s not always possible. Regional and national carriers often need to collaborate to get freight to its destination.
Make sure your TMS has the capabilities to include how many carriers will handle specific shipments, and you can take that information into consideration before you make the plunge. You’ll also want to ensure you can track the freight across carriers without hopping from browser window to window.
5. Be ready for damage.
It’s a fact of LTL: Freight is more likely to get damaged than truckload and other service options. The LTL system is built on a hub and spoke system, with items being moved from truck to dock to truck again several times. So, if your freight is fragile and must not be damaged, consider shipping it via truckload.
While the amount of damage depends on the product type, approximately 1-2% of all LTL freight shipping gets damaged. A freight claims analysis can help you determine where your company falls, and whether the current metrics are acceptable. Claims management plays a big role in recouping the cost of damaged goods, but it is time-consuming and challenging. Partnering with freight brokers who can handle claims management on your behalf can save your company time and headaches, and have a major impact on the bottom line.
6. Rework your packaging.
While damage happens more frequently in LTL freight shipping, optimizing the freight packaging can help minimize the chances. A packaging engineer can design denser, more secure packaging, and build custom crating that prevents damage as freight moves through the supply chain.
7. Consider customer experience.
It might sound counterintuitive, but investing in technology that allows customers to track their packages can lead to savings opportunities for your company. Of course, the ability to track freight movement supports a strong customer experience. Sales and customer service teams will appreciate it, too, because clients who can easily access the status of their orders online won’t be calling them to get updates. Each prevented phone call saves time for those team members, especially if they would have had to access multiple carrier platforms to find out where the freight is in its journey.
Need help with mode optimization, finding the best LTL rates or streamlining your supply chain from start to finish? Flat World’s team of LTL freight shipping experts can help. Send us a message about your company and its supply chain to get started!