When you’re ready to compare less-than-truckload (LTL) freight options, this simple but thorough checklist will help you prioritize your must-haves and evaluate what’s available. As a small business, it’s critical to find the right carrier who will adapt to your needs without over-taxing your supply-chain resources. Here are five key factors to consider up front when comparing LTL carriers.
What’s your timeframe for getting your shipment to its destination? If your mainstay is long-distance shipping, you’ll consider a different type of hauler than a business who needs a short-distance local or regional shipper with a faster transit time. Consider both options depending on where the bulk of your business falls and how they fit into your overall time goals.
Again, consider the coverage you’ll need. Do you primarily sell within a local or regional area, or do you have an extensive customer population across the country? You’ll need to have a clear idea of what areas you’ll need to service and which LTL freight services can reach those areas regularly.
What happens if your product is lost or destroyed during shipping? Carefully consider the cost. Most LTL carriers offer liability coverage at a range of $1 to $25 per pound, depending on the level of coverage desired. Generally speaking, the lower rates will provide basic coverage for long-distance LTL freight services, while the higher rates provide premium coverage for local or regional LTL shipments.
Be certain the LTL carriers you’re considering are financially stable. As with any type of business, there are carriers who continually struggle with debt and profitability. Avoid putting your freight in the hands of a carrier who’s in the midst of a financial struggle, as this could create serious problems for your business and become a liability for you.
Many small businesses consider price first. Although we don’t recommend it as the only criteria, it’s certainly an important one. Are potential LTL freight services offering discounts from their base rate or net price? Is there a minimum charge floor? What about freight classification or FAK (freight all kinds) provisions? Weight and accessorial fees can greatly impact your final price, so take them into account as well.
Beyond these five aspects, you’ll need to consider equipment options, such as the trailer size or liftgates, flexibility in scheduling and tracking options, and the company’s reputation. Across the industry, long-distance carriers tend to average in the low-90% range when it comes to ratings of reliability, while regional LTL freight services tend to fall in the high-90% range on average.
Doing this work of prioritizing and planning upfront will set you up to make the best decision when comparing the LTL freight services available to you. Finding and choosing the right company to work with frees up the time and energy needed to focus on what you do best – delivering first-class products and service to your customers and growing your business.