Part 9 of 22 Ways To Reduce LTL Costs That Don’t Involve A Price Reduction – Provide Advance Shipment Projections
9. Provide Advance Shipment Projections
LTL is so different from other forms of transport. That is one LTL’s greatest strengths, and why it is so appealing to shippers and growing so well. Unlike full Truckload where you are essentially paying for a full trailer, or small parcel where everything has to be shipped in a cardboard box, LTL is significantly more flexible. Want to ship a pallet, or 5 pallets? No problem. Want to ship on a pallet, or in a crate, or even loose? Sure, we can do that. Need 5 pallets to ship to 5 different customer? Piece of cake.
LTL is also very different in terms of its challenges. One major challenge is the unknowns of what will be picked up in a given day. For an airline, they are probably 99% sure how full a flight will be the day of departure. For Truckload, they don’t really care if you will fill the trailer up to the door, or only use ½ of the trailer as you are paying for the full trailer. And for parcel, due to a closed ecosystem and electronic data interchange, they know what the driver is picking up before he arrives.
But for LTL, it is a guessing game. Shippers may or may not communicate accurate pickup information. Shipments may be added, or removed, from the schedule. Shipment data (the BOL) is commonly hand-delivered to the driver, rather than via electronic transfer. And for larger shippers, there may be a standing pickup where the shipments tendered change day by day.
What all this means is that an LTL carrier does not really know what will be picked up on a given day until the pickup is performed and the BOL paperwork is scanned and billed not their system. Until both actions happen, an LTL carrier really does not know what they are about to induct into their system. That’s a problem. That’s an opportunity.
You the shipper can help your carrier partners by providing advance shipment projections. You have options that range in quality and finiteness of data which, when presented to the carrier in timely fashion, help them tremendously. Here are a few things you can do to better-prepare your carrriers so they can better-serve you:
- Call for a pickup in the AM, or a day before: Even if you have a standing appointment, call in advance to advise the carrier how many pallets will be picked up and if any are over-sized. Have your freight prepared such that the information you give the carrier matches what you tender to the carriers.
- Utilize an electronic pickup request: If you have a TMS or are using a carrier’s website, communicate the pickup information as soon as possible via electronic fashion. This is much preferred over a phone call noted above. The carrier will acknowledge that the pickup request was received.
- Advise carrier of significant changes: If you know business levels will be increasing or decreasing materially, or the pattern of freight tenders will be shifting, make your carriers aware. Don’t surprise them with limited tenders when they have you on a standing appointment.
- Communicate requirements: Make sure your carriers are aware of your operating hours, closing times, non-standard holidays, site closures, and preferred pickup times, and if you have need for special pickup or delivery requirements such as liftgates or inability to accept larger 48/53 foot trailers.
- Provide accurate data: Communicate accurate weights, piece counts, handling unit dimensions, and verified destination addresses to the carrier as soon as possible. The best option is to do this via an EBOL (Electronic bill of lading). This allows the carrier to immediately begin optimizing their pickup and linehaul networks. And with accurate data, you minimize the chance of invoice surprises while providing the carrier with critical costing data.
Keeping your partner carriers informed is in your best interests. Give them quality accurate data as soon as possible. Talk to your carriers about what you can do to help them so they can help you better. Giving them better advance information about shipments will be near the top of the list. Be their crystal ball so they can “see” your shipment tenders of the future!