An Introduction to LTL Shipping

Four Simple Steps

LTL pallet jack loading on trailer

Once you have decided to ship using Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) instead of moving your freight as a partial or purchasing a Full Truckload (FTL), then you will: 


  1. Determine your commodity's freight class
  2. Properly package your shipment. 
  3. Create a Bill of Lading (BOL).
  4. Schedule the pickup of your shipment. 


Let’s take a look at each of these steps in detail.


1. Calculating Freight Class


Determining your commodity’s freight class is not difficult if you have accurate weight and measurements. FreightSideKick offers tools to assist you with properly classifying your freight.


Accurately Measure Your Commodity’s Dimensions


LTL freight is usually shipped on pallets and the standard pallet size is 48” x 40”. If your product’s dimensions fit on a pallet, it will be both less expensive and easier for you to ship it. Remember when measuring your shipment: the more accurate your measurements, the more accurate your quote. LTL shipments are routinely weighed and measured at transfer and distribution hubs, so inaccuracies will be identified and your account will be charged or credited for any adjustments. 


Determine Your Commodity’s Density Freight Class           


Once you have measured your commodity’s weight, length, width, and height, then you can enter those dimensions in our Density Freight Class Tool to estimate your Freight Class.


Find your National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC)


Once you have estimated your commodity’s Freight Class, you can search our NMFC Table to see if there are any special conditions that may revise your commodity’s Freight Class. Enter key words that describe your product (steel, wood, produce, etc), the way it is packed (rolls, sheets, in bulk packages, on skids, etc), and its density (has a density per cubic foot of 15 pounds or greater, etc). If the NMFC Table produces a Freight Class greater than your density freight class, use the higher value when placing your order. Our Instant LTL Quote allows you to modify your freight class and/or NMFC number before producing estimates.


2. Properly Package Your Shipment


Using proper packaging techniques will keep your shipments safe from damage and may even contribute to a faster delivery. 

One key element to packaging your shipment properly is to secure it to standard-sized pallets, which are wooden platforms that generally measure 48” L x 40” W. Most LTL carriers prefer the use of pallets, which is called “palletization.” Pallets are vital for protecting your freight and they also make loading and unloading your shipment efficient. You may also store your commodity in crates, which can then be optionally stacked on pallets. Using crates is a good idea for particularly fragile items or for smaller items that must be stored safely. 

When loading your commodity on pallets, place heavier items on the floor of the pallet and lighter items on top. 

Secure Your Product to the Pallet

Secure your shipment to the pallet by strapping it in place or shrink wrapping it.

If you secure your items through strapping, be sure to use at least two straps and loop them through the forks of the pallet. Tighten or ratchet the straps until the product is secure. 

If you secure your items by shrink wrapping them, encircle your shipment a minimum of five times with the shrink wrap so that the commodity is firmly secured to the pallet. 


Before your shipment is picked up by the carrier, inspect your pallets and make sure that all of your product is firmly secured. 


If your product could be damaged by having freight stacked on top of it, you can employ crush cones – small triangular cones affixed to the top of a package with packing tape or straps – on the top of your product in order to indicate that nothing should be stacked on them.


3. Create Your Bill of Lading (BOL)


A BOL is a receipt of the contract between a freight carrier and shipper. The BOL is a legally-binding document that provides the carrier with everything necessary to correctly move the shipment to its destination and to invoice the shipment correctly. Use our BOL generator.


4. Schedule the Pickup


Once you know your shipment’s Freight Class and NMFC number, you have properly packaged it on pallets, and you have created your Bill of Lading, you can place your LTL shipment order and schedule a pickup.


Navigating the intricacies of LTL shipping can initially seem daunting for newcomers. However, with a structured approach and the right tools at hand, the process becomes manageable and efficient. This guide has aimed to demystify the steps involved, from classifying your freight to ensuring its safe delivery. As with any business endeavor, preparation and knowledge are key. By understanding the nuances of LTL shipping and leveraging platforms like FreightSideKick, you can ensure your goods reach their destination safely, cost-effectively, and on time. As you embark on your LTL shipping journey, remember that every shipment is a learning opportunity, and with each experience, you'll become more adept at navigating the world of freight logistics.