If you’re shipping LTL, there’s no way around it: You’re going to need to get freight quotes, and probably do it often.
This is true whether you’re a small business booking a single LTL shipment or a larger shipper with customer-specific pricing.
But there are many LTL carriers out there, and no two are exactly alike.
If you don’t put in the time and effort to get multiple quotes, it’s impossible to be certain you’re getting the best rate and service for your shipment.
Want to be sure you’re playing the LTL market with a good hand?
Learn how to quote LTL freight like a pro with these six rules.
Is Getting an LTL Freight Quote the Same as Truckload?
If you’re familiar with the full truckload spot market, you might expect LTL freight quoting to be a similar experience.
That is not necessarily the case.
Because LTL market is far more consolidated (~150 LTL carriers vs. more than 900,000 full truckload carriers), carriers are generally larger and carrier networks are more complex.
Therefore, prices aren’t set in the same way (see next section).
Takeaway: LTL and truckload shipping have different pricing models.
How Are LTL Quotes Priced?
In LTL shipping, carriers have what is called a tariff — a pre-determined rate matrix that accounts for a carrier's service offerings, equipment, lanes and facilities.
There are different tariffs for different customers and scenarios, and they are all subject to change, but your rate is much more a product of an operational equation than an active negotiation in a shifting market.
Every time you request a quote, your unique set of requirements enters an algorithm, and the price you see is a representation of what it will cost an LTL carrier to move your freight through their network when accounting the shipment's exact characteristics (weight, class, volume, origin/destination).
Takeaway: LTL rates are based on a pre-determined pricing tariff and your freight class.
Does Lead Time Change My LTL Rate?
This should help put your mind at ease if you’re shipping on short notice: For most LTL shipments, your rate isn’t affected by the amount of lead time you give the carrier.
The one real exception is volume LTL (larger LTL shipments of 6-12 pallets). Carriers use volume LTL freight to fill empty backhaul miles for their fleet, so pricing for it is quoted based on their current capacity.
Other than volume LTL, lead time mostly just impacts the chance that the carrier will be able to execute a pick-up when you want them to.
Takeaway: Lead time (short or long) does not generally impact your LTL rates.
What Makes an LTL Freight Quote “Good”?
There are two main things you want in an LTL quote: affordability and accuracy.
1. It’s affordable.
There’s a good chance both price and service are important to your business, but depending on your goals and needs, one might take higher priority than the other.
Different LTL carriers have different networks and business models: They are not equally equipped to handle your freight at a price and service level that works for you.
The more quotes you’re able to generate, the better you can learn whose network fits your cost needs.
2. It’s accurate.
LTL shipping is rife with opportunities to get charged more than you anticipate if you do not supply accurate information.
The best LTL quotes are ones that accurately reflect your shipping needs so the amount you pay is as close to your quote price as possible.
Now that we've covered the basics of LTL rate quotes, let's dive into the rules. Keep these six things in mind every time you get a quote to help get an accurate, affordable rate.
1. Get Your Freight Class Right
The single biggest mistake you can make that can limit your ability to get an accurate LTL quote is misclassifying your freight.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common mistakes LTL shippers make. Freight classes and NMFC codes continue to evolve, and are tricky even for experienced shippers.
Because freight class is a function of your freight’s density, value, handling characteristics and stowability, it’s also an indication of the risk a carrier is taking on when they move it.
If a carrier picks up your freight and discovers it to be misclassified, they will definitely charge you for the unexpected costs associated with moving it.
If you’re not sure of your freight’s class and/or NFMC code, you can consult an NMFC classification tool or work closely with your representative at your carrier or 3PL to ensure accuracy.
2. Don’t Leave Out Any Details
While freight class might be the biggest detail to get right, there are plenty others that need to be accounted for to make sure you get a good quote.
When requesting an LTL freight quote, be clear and accurate when indicating:
- Pallet weight:
Many shippers estimate this, and any inaccuracy can result in extra cost, as the pallet is part of the shipping cost.
- Origin and destination zip codes:
LTL carrier networks rely on accurate location information to optimize your route and their drivers’ positioning throughout their network.
- Number of pallets:
You are paying for space on an LTL carrier’s truck, and they need an accurate idea of how much of that space you’ll consume and what they will have left to use for others.
- Pick-up and delivery times:
Even though times aren’t guaranteed in LTL shipping, the clearer your timing preferences are, the better chance a carrier can meet them.
A good general rule when quoting — and this is true for truckload, LTL and any other mode you can think of — is to provide as much information as possible.
When everyone is on the same page from the get-go, you can truly operate as an efficient team.
3. Know Your Accessorials (And Indicate Them Clearly)
While it’s easy to think of accessorials as ways carriers try to nickel and dime their customers with add-on fees, they’re actually important mechanisms for understanding your own service needs and enabling carriers to know how strained their resources will be to meet them.
There’s no real way to avoid paying for services you actually need to successfully move your freight. However, the clearer you can be up front about your needs at the quoting stage, the more accurate your quote will be and the better your relationship will be with your carrier.
Outline all of the following when requesting an LTL freight quote:
- Special equipment (lift gate, refrigerated trailer)
- Delivery location constraints (indoor, residential, construction site, etc.)
- Delivery timing constraints (appointment, trade show, etc.)
4. Use Digital Tools to Get Faster Results
If you’ve mastered rules 1-3 on this list, you’re probably ready to benefit from a digital quoting experience.
Some 3PLs and LTL carriers offer a digital portal and/or app that you can use to get quotes and book shipments. Because this is a self-serve option, you really need to have all your details in place to use it effectively and get an accurate quote.
This is an especially powerful option if you’re quoting through a 3PL. Because they work with multiple LTL carriers, a 3PL digital quoting portal will typically show you multiple options and let you shop for service and price all in one place.
Portals like CoyoteGO® often contain additional features as well such as tracking, billing and document generating capabilities. It can be a truly powerful option for shippers who are comfortable handling the details themselves.
5. Talk to a Pro if You Have Any Questions
If you’re newer to LTL shipping — or even if you’ve been at it for some time — and you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to someone.
Representatives at carriers and 3PLs are more than happy to help you talk through your specific logistics challenges, whether they pertain to a specific load, lane, facility or your overall supply chain strategy.
A trained logistics professional can help you understand:
- Your delivery options
- Pricing structure
- Liability policies
- Potential for delays
- If your customers/vendors have preferred carriers
It’s in both your best interest and that of your carrier or 3PL that everyone is on the same page when quoting LTL freight.
A thorough, informative conversation is often the best way to get all the details hammered out and ensure an arrangement that benefits all sides.
6. Get Multiple Options to Find the Best Price 3PLs Can Save You Time and Money
There are several different types of LTL carriers, and each has different capabilities
As you explore your options, think about carriers’ size, service footprint and other factors that might influence whether they can move your freight efficiently and affordably.
There’s good news if you don’t have the time or resources to spend hours rate shopping every time you need to move LTL freight: 3PLs have done most of the work for you.
Good 3PLs have standing contractual relationships with multiple LTL carriers. They can be a one-stop-shop for you to assess multiple options, zero in on the service that works right for you while finding the best possible price.
Because of their size and the volume of freight they move with individual carriers, 3PLs are also able to negotiate blanket rates for service that are likely better than what you’ll find when you go to a carrier directly for a quote.
3PLs can help you get the perfect LTL quote by:
- Getting all pertinent details right
- Generating multiple quotes
- Offering blanket rates
- Negotiating with carriers
- Providing powerful tech
Show You Know the Rules: Get an LTL Freight Quote
Ready to put your new LTL quoting expertise to use? There’s no better time to start than now.
Just enter your shipment details into our online form to generate a completely free LTL freight quote.
Our reps will take it from there and help you book the fast, affordable and dependable LTL coverage you’ve been seeking.