LTL Shipping: Lift Gate Service

Lift Gate Service

Lift gate service is extremely useful for shippers that do not have a traditional loading doc or forklift needed to get their LTL freight into trailer. While this service is very useful, it is not without limitations. Read this article to learn things you should consider when selecting a lift gate service.

In this article we will answer these questions:

  • What is a lift gate?
  • How does a lift gate work?
  • How much does LTL lift gate service cost?
  • Why do LTL carriers charge for lift gates?
  • When is it needed?
  • Do I need a lift gate if I have a forklift?
  • What are the dimensions of a lift gate?
  • How much weight can a lift gate hold?
  • What if I need lift gate service on a full truckload?

What is a lift gate?

A lift gate is a hydraulic freight elevator that is used to lower freight to the ground.

How does a lift gate work?

The gate typically starts in a folded position tucked under or against the back of the truck. The driver will lower it down and unfold it to create the lifting platform. Once the platform is level with the ground the driver will use a button on the rear of the truck to raise and lower the platform. Typically the bed of the truck is anywhere from 38 to 54 inches from the ground.

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How much does lift gate service cost?

Lift gate service typically comes with a service charge of $50 to $150 dollars. Sometimes it can be more or less. It varies by carrier and even by market with different carriers. It often depends on the supply and demand of lift gate equipped trucks in the area.

Why do carriers charge for lift gates?

Lift gate service is a paid service where the carrier will send a truck that has a lift gate. Carriers charge for this service for the following reasons:

  1. Not all trucks have lift gates.
  2. Adding a lift gate requires additional investment by the carrier.
  3. Like any machine lift gates require maintenance and repair.
  4. Lift gate service often requires more work by the driver.
  5. Lift gate service adds convenience that benefits many shippers.

When is lift gate service needed?

In LTL shipping it is the responsibility of the shipper or consignee to load and unload their freight from the freight truck. In cases where the shipper or consignee doesn’t have a loading dock, forklift or some other way of loading their freight onto the truck, they can request a lift gate service. Here are some common places where a lift gate is needed. Some of these will require a separate fee generally referred to a limited access fee or non-commercial fee. Click here to learn more about limited access locations.

Do I need a lift gate if I have a forklift?

No, if you have a forklift the driver will move the freight to the back of the truck so you can unload with your forklift. This will enable you to avoid the lift gate charge but not any other applicable charges (i.e. limited access, non-commerical, residential, etc.)

Be careful though… We have seen times where the shipper is paying the freight charges and gets rebilled for a lift gate because the driver and consignee thought it would be more convenient to use the lift gate. When this happens the driver will write lift gate service on the proof of delivery and the carrier will send you a bill for the service. Make sure you communicate with your customer / consignee up front that you are not paying for the lift gate and they end up needing it it will increase the freight charges.

What are the dimensions of a lift gate?

Lift gates can range in size. They can go from 80” wide to 89” wide and 30” deep to 70” deep. We have never seen an LTL carrier not have a lift gate that is at least deep enough to handle a standard 40” x 48” pallet. The width of the lift gate is dependent on the type of truck.

Smaller straight trucks are often 96” inches wide and this is where you will see lift gates that are between 80” and 83” wide. These types of trucks are most commonly used when making limited access pickups and deliveries. Full size 53’ van trailers are 102” wide and this is where you will see lift gates that are upto 89” wide.

If you are moving cargo that is not loaded on standard 40” x 48” pallets, you should definitely check with the carrier that you are using prior to booking your shipment to make sure they have the proper size lift gates at both their origin terminal and destination terminal.

Remember LTL carriers use the Hub and Spoke system so the truck that picks up your shipment and the truck that delivers your shipment are going to be different. Also, carriers have different types of equipment in different markets.

How much weight can a lift gate hold?

Again this depends on the type of lift gate the carrier has attached to their truck. Lift gate weight capacity can range from 1500 lbs to 3500 lbs. As a general rule you are going to see smaller capacity gates on smaller trucks and larger capacity gates on larger trucks. You can get lift gates for trucks as small as a pickup or light utility truck or van. A good guideline to go with is 2500 lbs. Most common LTL carriers will have a lift gate capable of handling this weight. Often this can be correlated to pallet capacities which typically max out between 2000 lbs and 2500 lbs as well.

What if I need full truckload (i.e. 53′ dry van) with a lift gate?

How do you move a full truckload of product long distances when you don’t have a way to get your freight off the truck. We get a lot of calls asking this question.  The challenge here is 53′ dry van trailers in the full truckload spot market do not have lift gates. While some LTL carriers have 53′ trailers there are a variety of reasons they don’t work in this scenario (service limitations, cost prohibitive, etc.). If this is a challenge you have there are three options:

  1. You can split the load into two smaller straight trucks that have lift gates.
  2. You can rent a forklift.
  3. You can purchase a lift gate assist.

Each of these has it’s pro’s and con’s. We can help you figure it out. Give us a call today!

Thanks for reading our article on Lift Gate Service. We hope it helps you achieve your goals. We have several other resources you may find useful. Feel free to check them out here.

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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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