Top 5 questions to ask BEFORE you get an LTL freight quote

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Time and time again we meet LTL freight shippers that are frustrated due to changes to their quoted amount after the shipment delivered. In the LTL world these are called rebills. The best way to avoid a rebill is to have accurate information up front. We find that most rebills can be avoided by asking the shipper or consignee some questions.

Many times the process around booking freight shipping is part of a larger project. There is already a lot to do. Getting into the details of the freight shipment for many shippers is a bit of a hassle. Like most things through, the devil is in the details. Hopefully we can make the process of getting an accurate rate quote a little easier with these tips.

Question 1: How much does it weigh?

This question is mostly for the shipper. It is one of the most important, if not the most important. Not only do you want to know what it weighs you want to know how they get the weights for their freight. If they are using a certified freight scale that is good. If they are doing it any other way, that is an indication that there might be some issues with the quote. Some of the common methods we see are: guessing based on the size, using a parcel or small package scale or the scale on their pallet jack. If you find these methods are being used or something else, you should ask if they have access to a certified freight scale. If they don’t, then you should get the most accurate weight possible and set a proper expectation that the weight is subject to change by the carrier and as a result the rate might change too.

Question 2: What are the dimensions?

Again this is a question primarily for the shipper. The most common issue we see with dimensions is when the freight class is based on density. Changes in weight or dimensions can impact the class. Also, LTL carriers have penalty fees in their tariffs for shipments with dimensional characteristics that make the freight more difficult to stow, handle, or create liability issues. Usually the rule is if all of the freight together exceeds 12 linear feet. This is called the linear foot rule. Another rule is the cubic capacity rule. For most carriers the rule is if your shipment takes up 750 cubic feet and has a density less then 6 lbs per cubic feet then your rate is charged the cubic capacity fee. If you have a single item that exceeds 12 linear feet there is an extreme length fee that is charged.

Question 3: What are you shipping?

Understanding what is being shipped is crucial to the accuracy of the weight. Most LTL carriers base their rates on the NMFC freight classification system. This is a tricky and confusing system that makes getting the freight class right difficult for many. The rule with getting the right freight class is you have to select the most specific one that describes your freight. Also, if you are shipping multiple commodities, the freight will be classed on the highest one unless the cargo is itemized. If you are shipping a single commodity, freight classification isn’t that tough. If you are shipping a mixed group of items on a single handling unit it can be more difficult. Be careful if the shipper tells you they are shipping something general. An example would be “tools” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Since the rate is coming from the carrier, it is most important to consider how they view your shipment of tools.

Question 4: Where are you shipping from and to?

Understanding the characteristics of your shipper and consignee is very important. Not all locations are the same. What you need to know is if they are any of the types of locations that a carrier might charge extra for. Here are the questions to ask about the facility itself. If the answer is “No” to any of these, you are going to need to ask for a special service from the carrier. Make sure to ask these for both the shipping point and delivery point.

  • Do you have a loading dock?
  • Do you have a fork lift?
  • Are you a commercial location (i.e. not in a residential zone)?
  • Can the driver access the facility without special credentials?
  • Can the driver maneuver a 53′ trailer in the parking lot?

Here are questions to ask about things the driver might need to do to work with the facility. If the answer is “Yes” to any of these, you are going to need to ask for a special service from the carrier.

  • Does the driver need to sort, assist, or pay a lumper to load or unload?
  • Does the driver need to call prior to arrival at the shipper or consignee?
  • Does the driver need to have a reference number at pickup or delivery?
  • Does the driver need to have any special paperwork in hand?

Question 5: What are the shipping hours?

Normal shipping hours in the LTL freight business are 8 am to 5 pm. Outside of these hours and you might have to pay an after hours charge. If the pickup hours are before 1 pm, the carrier will likely have a hard time picking up, it might be best to find a different solution. Most carriers deliver in the morning and pickup in the afternoon. If the pickup or delivery hours are in the middle of the night, there is a good change most carriers won’t service the location. In this case, it is best to ask the location which carrier works with them best.

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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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