LTL Shipping: Guaranteed Service

LTL Common Carriers operate by moving your freight along specific routes based on public rates (unless you have negotiated a private tariff) and based on estimated transit times. This means unless you purchased an upgraded service level your shipment will take about “x” number of days to get deliver. LTL carriers call this upgraded service level guaranteed service. Some carriers give it a slightly different name or branded name.
In this article we will discuss:

What do you get with guaranteed service?
How do you book guaranteed service?
What happens if they don’t deliver on the guarantee?

Most LTL carriers offer a service upgrade called guaranteed service. Unless this upgrade is purchased the shipment is considered moving on an estimated transit time. Transit times can be found by contacting the carrier or looking at their website. If you use a LTL broker like BAM Freight, transit times are shown in the system when quoting or you can simply ask your freight agent.

Let’s look at some of the nuances of LTL guaranteed service:

What do you really get?
Guaranteed service means that the carrier is going to flag the shipment as a priority and do their best to make good on their guarantee.
Guaranteed service refers to the delivery. No carriers guarnatee a pickup although when you call the pickup in most carriers flag it as a guaranteed shipment and see it as a higher prioroity.
Guaranteed services are typically void when the shipment is delayed due to something out of the carriers control. Don’t expect to get your money back. See the carriers tariff for specifics.
Guaranteed service doesn’t mean a faster service. The carrier will still take the published transit time to get there. If their standard time is 4 days, the guaranteed transit will be 4 days.
Some carriers offer an added time specific window guarantee. The two most common are guaranteed delivery by noon or by 5:00 pm.
Carriers will often not guarantee appointment deliveries. If the consignee requires a specific delivery appointment the carrier will likely not honor a guarantee.
Some carriers, like YRC Freight, offer different preimum service options. They offere guaranteed, accellerated and time critical. Time critical is the most reliable and most expensive.
How to book guaranteed service?
All pickups with guaranteed service should be called in not dispatched via EDI. Carriers will say to just add it to the bol but honestly that isn’t good enough. They need to be called in.
The guaranteed service option must be noted on the bol. Most carriers have specific words that must be used and in some cases sizes. Check the carriers rules tariffs.
If the shipper does not give the carrier a bill of lading that shows the right guaranteed language the service upgrade will not apply and can not be added after pickup.
Always check the shipment the day after pickup to be sure that the carrier billed it as guaranteed in their system. Best to idenify issues early.
Unfortunately, even if you give you call it in properly and give the bol properly, if the carrier marks it standard when billing it in their system, it will often move that way, even if you dispute it.
What happens if they don’t deliver?
Most guaranteed shipments are fulfilled as promised. As a general rule, the more you pay for the premium the better the guarantee. Many carriers will offer a guaranteed upgrade for $50 for example. The one that does it for $150 will likely perform better or comes with a better return policy if the guarantee isn’t met.
If the carrier doesn’t deliver on the guarantee, and it isn’t due to a circumstance out of their control, most carrier will refund the premium. Some will refund the entire freight bill. This is defined in their specific publich rule tariff.
Partial delivery still constitutes fulfillment of the guarantee for many carriers. So if a carrier doesn’t have room or lost a pallet they will deliver what they can and keep the premium. This is frustrating to customers. It can be disputed. It is rarely won.
Guaranteed service is not claim free service or damage free service. If the freight is delvered damanaged the guarantee is considered fulfilled and the claims process takes over. Most carriers require that the freight is paid prior to paying out on a claim.


Guaranteed service is not an absolute. Guaranteed premium applies to the delivery. No pickups are guaranteed. Standard transit times apply. Deliver appointments are not guaranteed. The service is void if not on the bol. Situations out of the carriers control can void the service in transit without refund of the premium. Carriers don’t just give back the money if the guaranteed service isn’t performed. It is important to understand how they handle issues by reading their tariff in advance.

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Dave Stevens

Dave Stevens

Transportation Executive with experience in developing processes and controls for early stage start up companies. Specialties include: Sales, Marketing, Transportation, Trucking, Brokerage, Project Transport and Rail Operations.,Organizational Design, Process Development, Accounts Receivable Management, Leadership, and Business Start-ups.

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