25 August 2023
Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping is one of the most cost-effective ways to move freight. But getting the best deal isn’t as simple as a one-two click. Frequent LTL shippers and new businesses alike must first understand how to calculate and compare freight quotes to get the most out of their budget.
What are LTL freight quotes?
LTL freight quotes are cost estimates for how much a carrier expects to charge you to move your freight. The quotes are given by the carrier directly or through a freight broker prior to booking the shipments and are based on the information you provide about your specific shipment, such as its weight and freight class. After receiving the quote, you then decide whether or not to accept that price.
Factors that determine LTL freight quotes.
Before you get a quote or even open a freight-shipping calculator online, gather all of the following information about your freight.
Not only will this save you time and frustration throughout the quoting process, but it will also make finding the best possible LTL rates much simpler. That’s because LTL freight quotes are only ever as accurate as the details you provide, so missing or inaccurate information in your quote can result in the final price being much higher than you originally anticipated.
LTL shipments weigh between 150 to 20,000 pounds. As a general rule, the more weight you have, the better your rate will be per pound. That’s because every carrier has its own pre-determined price range based on weight. For shippers that regularly move lighter loads, it might be worth waiting and packaging more freight together to hit a better rate.
The dimensions and weight of your freight determine your shipment’s density, which is measured in pounds per cubic foot. Generally, high-density items are easier to ship than lower-density ones, which might be bulkier. For example, books are easier to ship than bicycles.
Understanding freight density is critical for maximizing cost-effectiveness. Truckload shipments that don’t have efficiently stacked pallets, wasting either vertical or horizontal space, often result in overspending.
To determine the density:
- measure the length, width, and height of your shipment in inches
- multiply these three numbers together and then divide this number by 1,728 to get the total number of cubic feet your shipment occupies
- divide the total weight of your shipment by the total cubic feet to get your shipment’s density, which will be pounds per cubic foot (PCF)
Freight classes are a classification system established by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association that indicate how easy or difficult it will be to transport your freight. They’re determined by several factors, including your shipment’s:
- density: measured in pounds per cubic foot
- total value: the monetary value of the freight being shipped
- stowability: how easily a shipment can fit into the space available in a truck
- handling: how difficult it is to move a shipment from one place to another
- liability: if your products are hazardous or could potentially damage other packages
Freight classes can be tricky to determine even for experienced shippers who know how to quote LTL freight. Misclassifying your freight during booking can have big consequences down the line, leading to extra costs and delays. Get a better understanding of these classifications with this freight class guide.
Distance & locations.
No surprises here: the further your shipment needs to go, the more expensive it will be.
However, your specific pick-up and drop-off locations can also affect your LTL freight quotes. If one of the locations is difficult to access or needs special equipment to load or unload freight, your costs will likely be higher. It might be worth investigating alternative locations if initial requirements result in an expensive quote.
Standard LTL shipping might not cover everything your freight requires. If your shipment has additional needs – which are referred to as accessorials – adding these extra services will increase your rate.
Some common accessorials include:
- detention and wait time
- advance notification
- driver load and unload
- inside delivery
- oversized and overlength freight
- hazardous materials
- after-hour deliveries
- diversion miles
- additional stops
Costs for accessorials vary from carrier to carrier, so it’s extremely important to include them all in order to get accurate LTL freight quotes. For many carriers, these rates are negotiable for repeat customers, especially those with consistent shipments and requirements.
The tighter your delivery windows, the higher your LTL freight costs will be. That’s because carriers charge more to move urgent shipments to compensate for the added logistical difficulty.
Unfortunately, this trade-off is often unavoidable for businesses shipping perishable goods. These shippers are sometimes forced to pay for a full truckload even when it isn’t necessary, just to ensure timely delivery. If you frequently ship under tight deadlines, be sure to investigate how this will affect different carriers’ rates.
Every LTL carrier has their own minimum rate, no matter the other factors mentioned above. A carrier’s base rate covers their fixed costs and overhead. Because of this, it can fluctuate over time to coincide with changes in the market, such as during periods of inflation or higher diesel prices. Base rates are typically calculated per 100 pounds of freight.
The good news is that, despite the name, these base rates are generally negotiable. Carriers may offer discounts that drastically affect your LTL freight quotes.
However, to truly ensure you’re getting the best rate, it’s important to know all of your options before jumping on a seemingly great deal. A smaller discount on a lower base rate, for example, might be a cheaper overall option for your business than a higher discount on a higher base rate.
Considerations when comparing LTL freight quotes.
While affordability is often a big priority, accuracy, and reliability are the two of the most important factors to consider when comparing LTL freight quotes.
LTL shipping can become a minefield of unexpected expenses if your initial quote is inaccurate. Mistakes made while calculating your freight quote, such as leaving out crucial shipment details, can lead to enormous costs that undo all the savings you worked so hard to find.
Remember: when comparing LTL freight quotes, the accuracy of the information you provide greatly affects the entire estimate.
Even if affordability is your highest priority, make sure that the carrier you select also meets your minimum service standards. Not all LTL carriers are equipped to handle freight with the same level of care or requirements. Consider the possible trade-offs, if any, of selecting the carrier with the cheapest rate before making your decision.
Secure the best rates with Flock.
When you get your Flock quotes, you know you’re getting the best option for your shipment.
In addition to standard shipping methods, you get access to our one-of-a-kind FlockDirect® offering – which offers you truckload-quality speed and reliability without the price tag.
FlockDirect® moves your freight on optimal routes that avoid slow, damage-prone terminals, so you:
- deliver 99.8% damage free
- ship 30% faster than standard LTL
- cut costs up to 20% compared to moving a truckload you can’t fill
- reduce your CO2e (carbon-equivalent) emissions by up to 40% compared to traditional methods
Ready to save money with accurate quotes and fast, reliable deliveries? Book a demo with Flock today.