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There are also freight companies who do not specialize in truck loads, but rather, consolidate larger volume shipments from about 2 to 12 pallets or about to pounds and consider themselves LTL Carriers.
Mail parcel services about pounds to just under what would usually be considered a Truck Load, at about 20, pounds or more than 14 pallets. LTL common carriers are also more likely to accept loose non-palletized cargo than the other two.
Less than Truckload carriers use "hub and spoke" operations where small local terminals are the spokes 'end of line'and larger more central terminals are the hubs also called Distribution Centers or DC's.
Spoke terminals collect local freight from various shippers and consolidate that freight onto enclosed trailers for transporting to the delivering or hub terminal, where the freight will be further sorted and consolidated for additional transporting also known as linehauling.
In most cases, the end of line terminals employ local drivers who start the day by loading up their trailers and heading out to make deliveries first. When the trailer is empty, they begin making pickups and return to the terminal for sorting and delivery next day.
Because of the efficiency of this order of operations, most deliveries are performed in the morning and pickups are made in the afternoon.
Once the driver has filled their trailer or completed their assigned route, they return to their terminal for unloading. The trailer is unloaded and the individual shipments are then weighed and inspected to verify their conformity to the description contained in the accompanying paperwork.
Next, the freight is loaded onto an outbound trailer which will forward the freight to a breakbulka connection, or to the delivering terminal. An LTL shipment may be handled only once while in transit, or it may be handled multiple times before final delivery is accomplished.
LTL transit times are not directly related only to the distance between shipper and consignee. Instead, LTL transit times are also dependent upon the makeup of the network of terminals and breakbulks that are operated by a given carrier and that carrier's beyond agents and interline partners.
For example, if a shipment is picked up and delivered by the same freight terminal, or if the freight must be sorted and routed only once while in transit, the freight will likely be delivered on the next business day after pickup.
If the freight must be sorted and routed more than once, or if more than one linehaul is required for transportation to the delivering terminal, then the transit time will be longer. In some instances, the LTL freight has up to 10 days of delivery time frame. Also, delivery to beyond points or remote areas will almost always add days to the transit time.
The main advantage to using an LTL carrier is that a shipment may be transported for a fraction of the cost of hiring an entire truck and trailer for an exclusive shipment.
Also, a number of accessory services are available from LTL carriers, which are not typically offered by FTL carriers. These optional services include liftgate service at pickup or delivery, residential also known as "non-commercial" service at pickup or delivery, inside delivery, notification prior to delivery, freeze protection, and others.
These services are usually billed at a predetermined flat fee, or for a weight based surcharge calculated as a rate per pound or per hundredweight.For many truck drivers now may be the prime opportunity to start a trucking company as an owner-operator.
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