LTL stands for less-than-truckload and is a useful option when your shipment doesn't qualify for parcel shipping but isn't large enough to take up a full freight trailer. With LTL shipping, your shipment is combined with shipments from other companies on a single trailer. Since you only have to pay for a portion of the trailer, LTL is a cost-effective way to ship bulky or heavy items.
When to Use LTL Shipping
There are times when you can't use parcel shipping to fulfill your orders, and LTL is an excellent shipping alternative in the following scenarios:
- The item you are shipping weighs over 150 pounds.
- The item you are shipping is oddly shaped, such as a surfboard.
- You need to send several smaller items to the same warehouse and can palletize them to take advantage of LTL shipping rates.
ShipEngine LTL Workflow
The following steps describe the typical workflow for using LTL shipping in ShipEngine API, including some alternative workflow paths. Keep in mind that not all carriers support all the features offered by ShipEngine API. Refer to our supported carriers page for a list of actions supported by each LTL carrier offered in ShipEngine API.
Connect an LTL carrier account to your ShipEngine API account.
You'll need to create an account with the carrier directly. This steps simply links your existing LTL carrier account with your ShipEngine API account so that you can make requests to the carrier using ShipEngine API.
This step is optional. You only need to request a quote if you need to know the cost in advance.
If your carrier does not support electronic pickup requests, you will need to contact them directly to arrange for pickup.
Prepare your bill of lading (BOL) and give it to the carrier at the time of pickup. The BOL is returned in the response when you schedule a pickup. If you did not schedule a pickup through ShipEngine API or did not copy the BOL from the response, you can create a BOL directly using the
pickup_idor using the
Once your shipment has been picked up by the carrier, you can track your package while it is en route to its destination.
You can also access documents such as the bill of lading, invoice, delivery receipt, and weight inspection certificate.
Shipengine API supports many LTL carriers to give you a range of shipping options. Not all carriers support all the functionality that ShipEngine API supports. For example, some carriers allow you to track packages, but don't support any of the quote and pickup functionality through ShipEngine API. Others allow you to create a quote but don't support scheduling the pickup electronically. For those carriers, you will need to call and arrange the pickup yourself.
You can view the list of supported carriers to learn which features are available for each carrier.
LTL carriers offer quotes based on predetermined contracted rates as well as last minute spot quotes, and ShipEngine API gives you the ability to request either. If you wish to get a quote before scheduling a pickup, you can use one of these endpoints to request a quote in advance. You can also skip creating a quote and go straight to scheduling a pickup if you do not need to know the rate in advance.
The quote endpoint is used to get a quote for a specific shipment from a specific carrier using the contracted rates already agreed upon. In the quote request, you provide the details about your shipment, including the service level you require.
The spot quote endpoint is used to get a quote for a specific shipment from a specific carrier. The carrier will return one or more quotes with the discounted rates they can offer based on their excess capacity. In this case, the carrier is incentivized to offer lower rates to offset the cost of their excess capacity.
The carrier will return one or more quotes representing the service levels and prices they are able to offer. You will use the
quote_id of the quote that best meets your needs, as well as its
service_code, when you schedule the pickup
of your freight. It will be included on the bill of lading you provide the carrier at the time of pickup, allowing them to match the shipment to the
original quote and invoice correctly.
The PRO number is equivalent to the tracking number in parcel shipping. Some carriers support automatically generated PRO numbers. If so, one will be included in the quote response. If a PRO number is not returned in the response, then one will be assigned by the carrier at the time of pickup.
You will need this number to track your shipment.
The quote response should include a confirmation number from the carrier. If the request is successful, but the carrier does not return a confirmation number, you should follow up with the carrier to ensure that they received the request. Additionally, some carriers might not support specifying a delivery date for pickup requests. If that is the case you will need to coordinate that directly with the carrier.
Once you've requested a quote, you can schedule a pickup of your items using the
If you do not need to know the rate in advance, you can skip creating a quote and go straight to scheduling a pickup,
providing all the details in the request.
Not all carriers support electronic pickup requests . If your carrier does not support this functionality, you will need to contact the carrier directly to arrange for pickup.
Bill of Lading
Regardless of how you schedule the pickup, you will need to provide the carrier with a printed copy of the bill of lading, or BOL, when they arrive to pick up your items.
A Bill of Lading is a document generated by an LTL carrier that lists the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being shipped. It also includes the terms and conditions for the transportation of the goods.
The BOL is a legally binding contract between the shipper and the carrier and is required for LTL shipping. The BOL serves as the title of ownership of the goods being shipped. In other words, it proves that the items being shipped belong to you. The BOL is also used as the receipt for the goods once they reach their destination.
The BOL is included in the response from scheduling a pickup. You may also create a bill of lading from a
or from a
pickup_id. Additionally, you may
list carrier documents to access the BOL or other related documents associated
with your shipment.
Each LTL Carrier has its own unique offering of service levels, such as 'Standard' and 'Guaranteed End of Day', indicating
when you would like your package delivered. The service level is referred to as a
service_code in ShipEngine API to
streamline the terminology used across different types of shipping carriers. You can list the service levels
for a particular carrier to see what to request in the quote.
LTL carriers typically offer additional services as part of the pickup process. For example, you may need a trailer
with a lift gate in order to get your container onto the trailer, or you may need to carrier to come inside to retrieve
the container. These extra services are referred to as
options in ShipEngine API to streamline the terminology used
across different types of shipping carriers. You can list the accessorial services
available from each carrier.
LTL shipments are packaged differently from parcel shipments since they are either heavy or bulky. For example, your goods
may be packaged onto a pallet or skid. These extra services are referred to as
packages in ShipEngine API to streamline the terminology used
across different types of shipping carriers. Different carriers offer different container types. You determine the container
types supported by each carrier.