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Getting LTL Shipping Right



With residential deliveries on the rise across the U.S., residential shipping via less-than-truckload (LTL) has become more commonplace. Today’s e-commerce shipping and standard parcel service through carriers like the United States Postal Service, FedEx and UPS have set the standard for residential deliveries. Customers of companies such as Amazon expect fast and simple deliveries with no need for communication between the recipient and carrier apart from an email containing tracking information.

These everyday practices have led to the expectation that all freight, no matter the size or cost, can be shipped directly to the general public with the same simplicity. However, residential shipping via an LTL carrier entails a different set of circumstances with interactions between three groups: the LTL carrier, the shipper and the consignee (or receiver). All play a role in ensuring the delivery goes smoothly.

Specifically, a shipper can help ensure a great experience—for both themselves and their customers—by clearly communicating expectations between the carrier and the residential freight recipient. The following are key factors to consider and communicate:

Access at the point of delivery

LTL drivers are accustomed to loading and unloading at a warehouse or business with the following:

  • An accessible loading dock
  • Any special equipment such as a fork lift or dock plates
  • Experienced personnel
  • Known special delivery needs ahead of time

More often than not, none of this exists when servicing a residential location.

While carriers will deploy the best vehicle available for a specific situation (e.g., a trailer fitted with a lift gate) it is best if the shipper can gather and provide any details about what the driver is going to encounter upon arrival, such as:

  • Will there be an open driveway or path for the truck to access?
  • Are there any stairs or difficult terrain to navigate?
  • Is there room on the street or driveway to park a truck?

Scheduled appointments

Today, most people don’t expect any physical communication with a driver or scheduler between the time they place an order and the time the package is delivered. However, when shipping direct to a residential location with an LTL carrier, setting an appointment — often during business hours will be necessary, and these circumstances should be communicated to the consignee ahead of time. Since a residential consignee may not be used to these practices, LTL carriers (Saia included) are making attempts to improve communications while keeping the process as convenient as possible by using options such as texting to relay information.

Service Expectations

E-commerce and parcel services have set customer expectations in terms of the speed of a delivery that differ from LTL services. Larger freight has a significantly different impact on scheduling and delivery times than parcel services that operate on consistent and standard routes.

Services such as final mile or “white glove” services — which are marked by above and beyond delivery services like special care requests, delivery into a home, or assembly or installation — also differ from e-commerce deliveries.

Consignees need to be aware of what is included in the price that was communicated or paid. The expectation that final mile and white glove services are standard only serves to disappoint and frustrate. Fortunately, there is one solution for all of these challenges:  communication. When the consignee can communicate to the shipper or carrier their needs and the situation that awaits a delivery driver, the better the experience will be overall.

It’s also imperative that when an LTL driver attempts to contact a consignee prior to delivery, they are responsive. As opposed to a situation where a parcel service will deliver despite not receiving a response to their attempted outreach, an LTL carrier may be forced to hold onto the freight. Again, the nature of the freight differs from that of a typical box that can be placed outside of a front door. However, with sufficient communication these problems rarely occur, and all parties can be confident in a smooth transaction.

A shipper who can effectively communicate to a consignee the reasonable expectations of an LTL delivery will stand a stronger chance of creating a better shipping experience— helping to increase the possibility of repeat business in the future.

Have a residential shipment you’d like to quote? Visit our Get a Quote page, fill out the information and be sure to select “residential” at the bottom.

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