Trucking Run Down – A Quick Tour of the Less Than Truckload Freight System Around the US
US – One of the things which always seem to puzzle international shippers, and indeed many freight forwarding agents, are the different terms used in the different markets around the world. We make no apologies for taking time in this strange period, with the virus dominating all headlines, to take time out to look at different aspects of the logistics industry which may bore some regular readers, but help explain to others some details which may prove of interest, and possibly even of use.
Firstly we should thank American Export Lines (AEL) for their vast experience in the field and providing many of the following facts. The US term less than truckload, or LTL, is really self-explanatory and only really confusing when the acronym only is used. It refers exclusively to road haulage but there are many similar such terms which essentially are the equivalent and used across Europe and further afield in various other modal sectors.
Less Container Load (LCL) can be switched to Groupage or Consolidated Cargo but in the US LTL is used widely as an extension to what is referred to there as cartage (which tends to be addressed to smaller shipments) also known to some as drayage, although that term more generally means haulage to or from a port or intermodal terminal. Both terms however refer to short journeys, usually no more than 25 miles, whereas LTL can be a movement over any longer distance, which even when a domestic movement is involved, can mean a vast coverage in an area as big as the US.
Obviously as opposed to full truckloads (or of course full container load (FCL) shipments) LTL will always mean smaller sized consignments, which AEL says in the US can be as little as 150 pounds (around 70 kilogrammes) but may range up to 15,000 pounds (approaching 7 tonnes), with the shipper paying a charge only for the amount of space they take in the truck. Spreading the cost this way means the carriers can set a tariff of rates to ensure they make their money without filling truck to absolute capacity.
Most consignments can be tracked in real time using modern technology, a necessary safeguard as the goods may find their journey broken at different points for transhipment (cross docking), particularly on long haul shipments. This is a point worth any shipper making clear before deciding which carrier to use, the less goods are handled, the less likely to be damaged.
Besides the normal transport of the goods from point A to point B there are additional service ‘add ons’, all of which have formal titles (and usually of course, extra charges):