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. 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
LTL shipping is a bit different from parcel shipping and requires a few more steps. Luckily, ShipEngine API provides everything you need to take advantage of the benefits LTL shipping offers. Use the API endpoints in the order listed below to ensure a smooth transition to LTL shipping.
Connect an LTL carrier to your ShipEngine API account.
Select the quote that best meets your needs and note its
quote_idas well as its
service_code. You will need both of these in the next step.
Schedule a pickup from the quote you selected. You will provide the
service_codeidentified in the last step. This step creates the bill of lading that you will give to the carrier whey they arrive for pickup.
WARNING The Bill of Lading is produced when you schedule a pickup. You will need to use this endpoint even if your carrier does not support electronic pickup requests in order to create the Bill of Lading. Creating the Bill of Lading directly is not yet supported.
If your carrier supports electronic pickup requests, your request will be scheduled when you create the bill of lading in the step above. If your carrier does not support electronic pickup requests, you will need to call the carrier to arrange a pickup.
Decode the bill of lading in the response, print it, and provide it to the carrier at pickup.
Track your package while it is en route to its destination.
Get documents such as the bill of lading, invoice, delivery receipt, and weight inspection certificate.
Shipengine API support 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 only allow you to track packages that you shipped outside ShipEngine. Others allow you to create a quote but don't support electronically scheduled pickups. You can view the list of supported carriers to learn which features are available for each carrier.
LTL carriers offer predetermined contracted rates as well as last minute spot quotes, and ShipEngine API gives you the ability to request either programmatically.
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.
WARNING The carrier uses the information you provide in the
bill_toproperty of the request to determine which rates to return. You will need to provide the correct account information in order to receive contracted rates.
The spot quote endpoint is used to get a quote for a specific shipment from a specific carrier, but unlike the quote endpoint, you don't specify your desired service level. Instead, the carrier will return the service levels and 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. A win for all!
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.
WARNING Keep in mind that Spot Quotes expire. If the quote has expired at the time of pickup, a new one will need to be created.
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.
LTL Service Levels
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. These service levels are referred to as
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 Accessorial Services
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 Container Types
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.