Less than Truckload (LTL) shipping is well known for being the most cost-controlled solution for smaller shipping needs because it allows multiple companies to ship their freight together and only pay for the amount of space used on a truck. As convenient as it is for a shipper to load their product onto a truck and then watch the truck head down the road, what about the LTL carrier who has to make multiple pickups while keeping paperwork, addresses and pallet counts for each pickup organized?
LTL dispatchers need to be on the same page as their drivers in order to make sure their loads are picked up at the correct location at the correct times. In this article, we will take a look at the dispatching an LTL shipment and what’s involved in that process.
The most successful LTL companies give their drivers more than just basic shipment information in order to ensure the best possible service, while also trying to limit any possible mistakes. All of this is covered in the dispatching process that begins before the driver gets to the shipper to make a pickup and concludes once the product is loaded with all paperwork signed. This dispatching process generally includes an order verification process, an equipment check, use of technology to pass information to the driver and a few steps to limit carrier liability.
Some LTL carriers have online portals where a company can input all of their own shipment information to schedule a pickup, while others take their orders via phone or email. The dispatching process begins once a new shipment is given to the LTL carrier.
To avoid any clerical errors, LTL carriers will call the shipping facility before they send their truck to load in order to double check the details of the shipment, which includes the pallet count, weight, loading hours, product ready time and the delivery destination. The best of the best will double and triple check to make sure they don’t miss their loading window, load the incorrect amount of product or show up without any of the required equipment.
Once an order is confirmed and a driver is assigned to their pickups for the day, the driver needs to run a safety check on his tractor and trailer. Most drivers will make sure their brakes, brake lines, tires, coolant, oil, and lights are all in proper working order before leaving the yard. This helps catch anything that could cause a delay or breakdown.
The next step in the equipment check is the trailer itself. The driver needs to verify whether or not any of his pickups will require a liftgate or other accessories to secure the load like straps or load locks. Once the safety and trailer checks are completed, the driver can then begin his route.
Just like almost everything in our day-to-day lives, technology plays an important role in the dispatching process as well. Almost all LTL carriers have some sort of fleet management system like Qualcomm for example, which allows dispatchers to send information directly to their driver’s handheld computer in the tractor.
New, same-day LTL shipments can be scheduled for pick up, so fleet management systems help verify the space available in the truck, as well as communicating the pickup details to the driver without having to make a phone call. These types of systems generally allow for GPS tracking on the trucks as well, so the carrier can provide accurate updates on their shipments. Drivers are rarely at their LTL terminal once they start their day, so handheld computers are essential for passing the new information along to drivers within seconds.
Double and triple checking the product prior to loading is imperative to avoiding problems after leaving the shipping facility. The dispatcher needs to communicate to the driver that he needs to be checking all product before it is put on his truck. The driver is responsible for the amount and quality of product loaded on his truck. If the driver were to load damaged product and sign the BOL, then the driver can be held responsible for the damage at the receiving facility. The driver must also count the number of pallets loaded and make sure that matches his paperwork before leaving as he can be held liable for any shortages as well.
Not all shippers allow drivers on the loading dock to check what is being loaded on their truck, so if that is the case, the driver needs to make sure the BOL says “shipper load count” before signing. This puts the liability of the quantity on the shipper instead of the driver.
By verifying the information on the order, checking the truck and trailer, using technology to communicate shipment information and taking the necessary steps to limit their liability, the LTL carrier can properly execute their dispatch process. Once the dispatch process is completed, then the shipment should go smoothly from start to finish for both the customer and the LTL carrier.