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LTL and multi-stop truck loads are certainly not for the lazy. It’s tough work to book, plan and perform. So why not ask the question, is LTL better than multi-stop when it comes to increasing revenue? Before we actually take the question on, let’s define what each category is, and how they work. We won’t get into contract freight in this post. We’ll stick with brokered truck freight on load boards like Trucker’s Edge®.
What Is LTL freight?
LTL stands for less than load. By definition, it’s any freight that leaves enough room on the truck to warrant a discount on a full truckload rate. It could be as small as a single pallet, or as large as 2/3 of your hauling capacity by weight and volume. Generally speaking, LTL freight smaller than a full pallet will ship via a dedicated LTL carrier like Fed-EX or Old Dominion, but not always.
LTL loads generally involve multiple shippers and receivers. It’s your responsibility to make sure the weights and estimated trailer space is correct. Keeping track of what comes on and goes off your trailer is all on you. As long as it’s only two or three pickups, the paperwork shouldn’t be bad. But again, it’s all on you.
LTL van and refer loads are trickier to plan than flatbed freight. You’ll need to pick the freight up in reverse order of the deliveries so the first stop is at the tail and the last stop is on the nose. You can’t always count on some forklift driver to pull 6 pallets, remove the freight he’s after, then put those 6 pallets back on your trailer.
The down side of building an LTL load is how most brokers deal with them. The broker sees the LTL posting on a load board as gravy money to a truck that’s already hauling paid freight. If the load is 6 pallets, or 25 percent of your trailer, he’s probably offering something along the lines of 20 percent of a full load rate. It’s up to you to negotiate a better rate.
A Typical LTL Example
Let’s assume you’re already 75 percent loaded, but you have room for 6 more pallets. If you’re going to grab that LTL load, you’ll have to add a stop for the pickup, and at least one more to deliver the 6 pallets before you make the final delivery of your 75 percent. Was the extra money worth the time involved? And if either of those stops hold you up for any time, you’ll be late for the final drop. We haven’t even mentioned the out of route miles involved.
The obvious play here is to get a better rate than 20 percent of a truckload. Stop pay on both ends, a bump in the rate per mile and a clearly spelled out detention pay need to be negotiated in. You also need to estimate the out of route miles involved. They’re definitely a tool in your rate negotiation arsenal. The broker may step up, but you have to ask. You can always pass and call on the next load.
This example was only 2 pickups and stops. If you take on more pickups and stops, just multiply the workload. I’m sure you get the picture.
One good play with LTL is to book partial loads with different brokers. As long as you’re making your appointment times, they don’t really need to know how many stops you have and who you booked them through. It spreads the risk and helps you build relationships with brokers you may want to deal with in the future.
The biggest difference between LTL and multi-stop is the shipper. Unlike LTL, mult-stop loads generally originate from the same shipper. You pick up the entire load at one location, then deliver to several. Some of these loads may require more skill and handling than others.
Examples I’ve handled in the past.
- Insulation on pallets. All pallets had the same product loaded into a 53′ dry van trailer. All I had to do is keep count. Several of these stops had no dock, so we’d drag the pallets to the tail with a pallet jack or chains.
- Cabinets, doors and windows. Again, these were all “driver to the tail” loads. The driver was responsible for bringing the product to the tail of the trailer, even when they had a dock. I preferred to not have anyone else in the trailer on these loads. I knew exactly what parts and pieces I was looking for, and how the stops were marked and separated.
- Livestock. I know, it’s a whole new ballgame, but it sure paid well.
- Motorsports equipment. Snowmobiles, motorcycles and other motorized toys that ship in crates. Although most of these loads ship via flatbed, I’ve handled a few that were turnkey 4 wheelers. The driver would actually drive these out of a 53′ dry van with a double deck and ramps.
- Fake trees, pillows, candles, beer, whatever else you can think of can ship via multi-stop truck load.
Most multi-stop truck loads have a rhythm. Many times, they run on a regular schedule to the same stops. If you can book that run load regularly, it gives you a chance to learn the shipper and receivers. Building those relationships will make your job easier. Most receivers know you’re on a schedule and they’ll get you in and out quickly.
Many receivers will let you park overnight. I really loved this with flatbed freight. I could have straps and tarps moved before they opened. Even with a van, you’re parked and waiting for them when they start their day.
Through the years I’ve had many receivers who’d leave a trailer out. I’d pull up when they were closed, push their freight from my trailer to theirs, then hit the road. You’re not going to start out this way, but you’ll develop these relationships as time goes by. I’ve even had several who gave me a key.
In some cases the customer may have no business location. I’ve met customers at truck stops, parking lots and lumber yards to transfer everything from cabinets to calves.
The beauty of running these loads regularly is your ability to be great at it. As you find ways to be more efficient, the broker will have issues when others take the same run. They don’t know who will unload you 3 hours early if you bring a dozen doughnuts, where you park or any other tricks of the run. Obviously, you never share those secrets.
Brokers tend to bid multi-stop loads higher. According to this post from CH Robinson, they’re generally charging $300 for just the first stop. Reading farther tells me they’re calculating in some out-of-route miles in these loads, although that amount is highly discounted.
Again, get everything from appointment times, detention pay and some out-of-route mileage pay negotiated and in writing when you book. That stop pay really adds up when you can knock them off rapidly.
The Best Thing About Both Types Of Loads
Whether it’s LTL or multi-stop, both of these loads get you in front of shippers. Your foot is in the door and you can find out who actually books their freight. In many cases, you may be delivering a piece of a larger final product that will be shipped right back out. If it’s a load you run several times, each visit is a chance to build that know, like and trust.
One More Way To Find The Best LTL And Multi-Stop Loads
Post your truck. Trucker’s Edge® gives you plenty of room for a comment. In that comment section, be creative. Along with the usual equipment type, location etc., put in I’m great at multi-stop loads, Plenty of straps for multi-stop runs, or something like that. Do it every time, and be creative. You know you’ll make more money when they’re calling you for the booking.
Note: Try any of the Trucker’s Edge® plans for 30 days, absolutely free by following the link. As long as you’re testing, sign up for the Pro plan. You’ll love the features. Just update to the plan you decide to keep, or cancel before the 30 days are up. Zero risk, the biggest load board in the industry and all the features of the Pro plan free of charge, with no obligation.
The Trucking Podcast does have an affiliate relationship with DAT and Trucker’s Edge. This means we earn a commission if you keep the plan. It’s a relationship we’re proud of, and we thank them for the opportunity.
Be sure to check out 7 Tools For Finding Higher Paying Truck Loads. It just may give you the tools to create that value you can sell.
Load boards, LTL and Multi-stop truckloads were only part of the show. We also had some fun. Just check out the links.
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