LTL Freight Packaging Guidelines

Less-than-truckload shipping can be a convenient and cost-effective option for many organizations. However, it comes with some challenges. LTL shipments don't always go directly to their destination. They share the container with other loads and may be unloaded and reloaded multiple times during the shipping process. Proper shipping is essential to protect the shipment and other loads, ensure the load doesn't take up unnecessary space, and guarantee the shipping provider can properly secure the pallets after loading.

Here, we cover some essential freight packaging and shipping guidelines to help ensure your loads are safe and secure and they make it to their destination intact.

LTL Maximum Weight and Size

The maximum weight for LTL shipments depends on the freight carrier. LTL weight guidelines can vary from as little as 100 to as much as 10,000 pounds. Some carriers are willing to ship loads up to 20,000, although this is less common.

FedEx accepts shipments of up to 15,000 pounds, but no individual piece or pallet can weigh more than 4,000 pounds.

Loading guidelines for pallets say they shouldn't be stacked above 84 inches in height. Again, individual freight carriers may have their own restrictions for shipment dimensions. For example, FedEx says LTL shipments cannot be more than 15 feet in length.

If you need to ship something that's unusually sized, call the carrier in advance, as they may have a different shipping option that accommodates your needs.

How to Palletize Your Shipment

Using shipping pallets helps make your shipment easier to load and unload. Consider the following guidelines for proper palletizing of large loads. Most shipping companies have an LTL pallet limit of six pallets per shipment, but some companies may accept more pallets under a volume shipment model.

Use a Packing Base

Using a packing base helps keep your load stable and oriented the right way, which is important for LTL shipments that may be moved around multiple times during the shipping process.

Optimize for Stackability to Save Space

Standard stringer pallets can hold up to 2,800 pounds and can be stacked up to 7 feet high. Arrange your load carefully so all boxes are stacked squarely on the pallet and the corners line up.

It's acceptable to stack near the edges of the pallet, but there should be no overhang. Not only does overhang increase the risk of cartons getting damaged, it makes them weak and may present a safety hazard if anything is stacked on top of them.

Use Secure Stretch Wrapping

Stretch wrapping is another essential part of freight packaging. By using stretch wrap to cover your pallet, you help reduce the risk of any packages coming loose.

To wrap the shipment securely, start at the bottom and wrap around all the boxes, moving upwards. Overlap each layer of the wrap by at least 50%. Once at the top, crisscross the wrapping diagonally over the corners and work back to the bottom in a spiral pattern.

Finish the wrapping process with a three-inch overlap with the pallet itself, to make the entire shipment one securely wrapped item. If the pallet is heavy and you need more security, consider using metal or nylon bands in addition to the wrap.

Ensure the Package Is Forklift or Pallet-Jack Friendly

Make the package easy to move by ensuring forklifts can pick it up from all four sides. Check that no nails or other sharp objects are sticking out and that the package is well-protected on all sides, with no overhang.

Consider Special Handling Requirements

Fragile, delicate or perishable goods must be handled carefully. LTL freight shipping isn't always the best option for these items due to the longer shipping times and frequent handling of the freight. If you're considering this kind of shipping, think carefully about any special handling requirements you might have.

Temperature Needs

Refrigeration is the most obvious temperature control requirement for freight, but there are others. If your shipment must not be exposed to rapid temperature fluctuations because it may damage the product, you need to highlight this issue to the shipping company. Not all trucks are temperature-controlled, and depending on the season and the regions your freight loads are traveling through, the temperature inside the truck could change significantly over the space of a few hours.

Fragile Shipments

Fragile items must be handled carefully. Ideally, you should pack them separately from non-fragile items and make sure they're well protected. This could mean individually wrapping them, putting them in boxes with pellets or bubble wrap and making sure that the loads are properly secured.

Make sure any fragile items are in boxes or crates that are labeled appropriately so the shipping company knows they must be handled with care. If the items must be kept oriented in a specific way, highlight this as well, even if they're already on a pallet.

Unusual Freight Shapes/Sizes

Shipping oddly shaped or ugly freight can be challenging. If your loads are non-standard and you're concerned about trying to ship them because standard crates or pallets don't allow you to package the load securely, contact the shipping provider to ask them if they offer custom crate options.

Some carriers provide specific shipping options for large flat items and other unusual shapes or sizes. These may be more expensive than the standard LTL rate, but it could be worthwhile to ensure your items get to their destination in one piece.

Prepare to Ship

If the delivery time offered by LTL is suitable for your needs, the flexibility and cost savings associated with partial loads can be appealing. You need to make sure the type of packaging is suited for loading and unloading at multiple stops and your loads are properly secured.

Follow the tips above when preparing your shipment, and it should get to its destination intact. If you have concerns or would like to make sure your chosen carrier will be able to handle your shipment, contact them and advise them of the shipping class and how you're preparing the pallets. They'll be able to advise you on the next steps, delivery costs and any other details you may need to be aware of.