The LTL Delivery Process: LTL Shipping Basics

The LTL shipping process allows multiple shippers to share space on the same truck. This makes it an efficient and cost-effective solution for transporting smaller loads.

Instead of booking an entire truck for a single shipment, customers only pay for the portion of the truck they actually use. This especially benefits small to medium-sized shipments that don't require the full capacity of a truck.

The LTL delivery process involves combining shipments from various customers, optimizing the use of truck space and reducing overall transportation costs.

The LTL Shipping Process

The LTL shipping process consists of four steps.

Step 1: Classification

Proper classification helps the LTL shipping process get started in the right direction. We use the National Motor Freight Classification codes to determine the right classification for each shipment. These essential codes help standardize freight pricing and practices across the industry, preventing freight carriers from charging exorbitant rates and engaging in unfair practices.

Classification codes are based on several factors, including:

  • The type of goods being shipped
  • The weight of the shipment
  • Dimensions of items
  • How the goods are packaged and handled (refrigerated, hazardous or fragile)

Accurate classification ensures shipping rates remain fair and consistent. Misclassification can lead to unexpected charges or delays, especially if a specific team is hired to load or unload a certain shipment based on its classification.

If an insufficient number of team members arrive, they might need to wait for more help, causing a schedule delay. If too many workers are assigned, the customer ends up paying too much.

Certain goods could also spoil, break or cause dangerous leaks if their designation gets classified incorrectly.

To learn more about classification codes and how to determine the right code, check out our additional info on NMFC codes.

Step 2: Packaging

Proper packaging protects shipments from damage and ensures they comply with shipping regulations. Depending on the classification codes assigned to your goods, you must follow specific packaging guidelines, such as:

  • Using the right type of containers
  • Ensuring adequate padding
  • Securing items to keep them safe during transit

For example, fragile items require additional cushioning to prevent breakage, while heavy or oddly shaped items often need custom crates.

Inadequate packaging can lead to potential damage, delays and additional costs. For comprehensive coverage of LTL freight packaging, refer to our Essential Guide to NMFC Packaging Requirements.

Step 3: Package Pickup & Transport

Once your shipment is classified and packaged, your LTL carrier will pick it up from your location. The LTL delivery process involves multiple transfers as the shipment moves through a network of distribution centers.

Since LTL shipments share truck space with other deliveries, they may be transferred from one truck to another multiple times before reaching their final destination. This process emphasizes the importance of careful packaging, especially for fragile or ugly items that are unusually shaped or difficult to handle. Ensuring the secure packaging of items helps prevent damage during transfers.

Step 4: Package Delivery

If all the steps in the LTL shipping process are followed correctly, your packages should arrive intact and on time at their final destination. The final leg of the journey involves delivering the shipment to the recipient's location.

Efficient coordination and communication between the carrier and the recipient ensure a smooth delivery. The success of the LTL delivery process depends on accurate classification, proper packaging and careful handling throughout the journey.

By adhering to best practices, you can minimize the risk of damage and delays, ensuring a positive experience for all parties involved.

The Benefits of the LTL Delivery Process

LTL shipments offer several benefits that make them an attractive option for many businesses.

Cost Savings

By sharing truck space with other shippers, you only pay for the portion of the truck you use. This can significantly reduce transportation costs compared to booking a full truckload.

Additionally, LTL shipping maximizes the use of available space, leading to fewer trucks on the road and reduced carbon emissions.


LTL carriers typically offer a range of services, including:

  • Lift-gate delivery
  • Inside delivery
  • Residential delivery

Each of these can be tailored to meet your specific needs. This flexibility allows you to choose the service level that best suits your requirements and budget.

Timely Deliveries

LTL carriers operate on regular schedules and have established networks of distribution centers, which helps ensure shipments get delivered on time. This reliability allows businesses that depend on timely delivery to meet customer demands.

By understanding what LTL stands for and how the shipping method works, you can optimize your logistics operations. The benefits of LTL transportation extend beyond cost savings, offering efficiency, flexibility and reliability in the shipping process. This knowledge allows you to choose the best shipping options for your business needs, ensuring your goods are transported safely and efficiently.