So I am off today, and I decided to contribute to this forum be taking an hour or two to type this up. I've already added the "Typical Day of a Linedriver" thread a few months back. This time I want to focus on the actual LTL structure and process and explain to the rest of everyone else that may not be familiar with it. This thread is strictly informative. We got some senior members within our LTL folder (ACH1130, CenturyClass, Jakebrake12, Marksteven, and even this old retired dude named Big Don) that contribute regularly to this folder. So if I get something wrong, I expect you guys to be obligated to correct me so I am not feeding out inaccurate information. I will use personal experience and real-life examples to explain things in laymen's terms.
End of Introduction.
So LTL is a unique industry within the trucking industry. What we have in common with our OTR counterparts is this: we are required to hold a Class A CDL, valid medical card, logbooks (in many cases), and we move freight. Those are the key similarities to our job description and requirements. Minor differences between LTL and OTR would be additional endorsements we would need on our CDL (double/triples, tankers, and more often than not, HazMat). Many LTL carriers DO require prior experience of some sort, but it may surprise you how many areas will pull recently graduated recruits or promote dock workers in order to make things happen.
Major differences would be # of hours worked, the way we are paid, the way we do business vs everyone else.
LTL carriers are unique because we do not send an entire tractor/trailer/driver(s) to a shipper, and dedicate this combo for a single run. Over-the-road driver will usually start their run by picking up an entire truckload at a given place, and then move that specific freight to a receiver. They will then zig-zag the entire country to get their job accomplished. Some of OTR runs can last days... even weeks with multiple pick-ups/deliveries. LTL does things quite differently.
Key advantages to using LTL vs a mega carrier are these:
You are shipping the piece of freight at the fraction of a cost vs hiring an entire truckload (remember, you are only shipping one or a few pieces, not a truckload).
LTL carriers will have additional services like residential delivery, liftgate delivery, and if you have constant inbound/outbound shipments with the LTL carrier, you will probably end up with the same trusted driver to handle your freight for you.
Real Life Example: You are the owner of a collision repair shop in Billings Montana and you want to order an engine/door panel/whatever out of Spokane, Washington. You place an order to get that piece over for a customer. Obviously the d*** thing wont fit in a mailbox, so the mailman will prolly tell you NO when you want to move it to your work centre. It would also be economically stupid to hire an entire truck load just for this item you want.
One major exception to the rule: you run a bakery and your one-of-a-kind oven broke and need a specific part right away, in which case you would probably contact an Expedited Services.
Aside from the previous, this is where an LTL carrier comes in. It could be ABF, NPT, MTS, USF Reddaway, YRC, Old Dominion, FexEx Freight, Con-Way Freight or whatever other carriers are servicing that specific area.
LTL carriers have several different types of workers. Pick-up & Delivery Drivers (P&D), Linedrivers, and dockworkers (which job requirements may be filled by linedrivers and P&D drivers, depending on the carrier).
Typical workday will play out like this: Dock workers will show up at the crack of dawn... sometimes even earlier. They will strip freight from trailers that were brought in by linedrivers that same night/morning. The freight that will come in will be moved into specific trailers destined for nearby town that the LTL service centre will support. At some point the P&D guys will show up and take this freight to awaiting customers. Deliveries will usually be done in the morning. This way LTL customers can start working on getting the moved freight to THEIR intended customers. Again, for an example, if you run that collision shop in Billings Montana, you want to get that piece in early so your guys can fix the busted car so that customer can pick it up after lunch or whatever.
Most P&D drivers will have a set route. Some of those routes will be based on seniority. If you are at the top of the food chain and have many years in service with a company, you will probably have a route that starts the earliest, ends the earliest, and deliver cargo that is not a massive pain in the arse to get off the trailer.
P&D drivers may have multiple trips back to their terminal to pick up additional trailers or freight and go to nearby customers or towns to deliver that freight.
Usually around lunch time or later they will be done dropping off freight. Some drivers will run their routes in reverse and go back to the same customers IF they have freight they want to ship back out. Sometimes P&D drivers will go to other customers that specialize in making certain parts and ONLY shipping them out. In some cases, customers will deal with both.
Real life example: We got a massive micro brew beer company in town. In the morning they will receive massive bags of ingredients for their beer... at the end of the day, they will request a pick-up of the final product (the beer) to go back out to nearby cities or states.
P&D drivers will make their rounds, deal with some of the same people, pick up freight, and get the freight back into the terminal.
The trailers they will bring in will be taken apart, and then consolidated into trailers going into whichever direction.
Line drivers will show up usually right around night time to move these bulk trailers to terminals within the state... or nearby states.
Ok, so I hope everyone is still with me at this point and not too confused. I will go back to the Collision Centre example to explain what will happen next.
P&D Driver will pick up the engine somewhere in Spokane Washington that was ordered back in Billings.
This engine should be on a skid all nicely shrink/bubble wrapped to prevent damages within handling/transit. This engine will be loaded on an east-bound trailer to go from Washington State to Montana. Sometimes it will end up on an entire trailer full of mixed freight destined for Billings. Sometimes there may not be enough freight on that east-bound trailer to justify using one trailer for one city in Montana, in which case the trailer will also have freight going to the next major town... lets say... Missoula Montana.
A line driver out of Missoula will head west with freight destined to Spokane. He/she will show up to Spokane, drop off their trailer(s) and grab the trailer with the engine block and return back to his/her terminal in Missoula. By the time the driver gets back to Missoula another driver will be waiting on that Billings-bound trailer and take it to Billings.
All of this will happen over night. Trailers may move over 1,000 miles a night by multiple driver. Come 5 AM, the trailer that started it's trip in Spokane will now sit in the Billings terminal... and that engine block will now be placed into a P&D trailer destined to you within a specific timeframe you may have requested.
So to wrap things up, this whole process will be a long series of relay runs for the line drivers. Line drivers will go back and forth and shuttle trailers to terminals or "meet points" and then head back to their home terminal where they will conclude their shift.
Here is also where it gets a bit confusing and it will also highlight a key DISADVANTAGE to using an LTL carrier. A line driver may be asked to pull a single piece (let's say the engine going to Billings) off of a Missoula trailer and transfer it to a Billings-bound trailer. The line driver may not be experienced in operating a forklift and may cause damage in handling the freight. Some freight may be handled multiple times before it reaches it's final destination. Again, with the LTL model, we usually do not handle trailer loads... but rather Less-than-truckloads.
Ok... So I hope this explains things and is not too confusing.
EDIT: Want to throw something in real quick while the thread still lets me update this. As pointed out, LTL carriers will use additional networks and resources to make things happen. For example, USF Reddaway now has terminals down in Texas and Louisiana. Not sure how far their network map reaches South-East, but I am guessing there is a massive gap between those two states and the rest of their network out west.
Some carriers like the one above will transfer some/all of the goods to a TL carrier... or a TL carrier will come from across the country with a trailer full of stuff... lets say washing machines or whatever. That trailer will then be broken down into smaller trailers to be taken to all the washing machine dealers in the state/nearby state. LTL carriers will also use ships/rail/planes/other LTL carriers to close up gaps in their network. Again, these additional methods will be done in the most cost effective way possible.
What is LTL?
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So my OP was supposed to be strictly informative... But I will add a personal note if so I may.
A quick note on seniority for P&D drivers. As previously stated, the more senior guys will pick whatever routes they deem more favourable. Many times certain routes are more time consuming when they end up in heavy traffic areas. Other times the route will require an inside delivery which will require pallets to be broken down and moved indoors via a hand truck. Again, time consuming and physically demanding. Very legitimate reasons to pass down those runs to the new guys that lack seniority or are in better shape. Some runs will be turned down for petty reasons though. Excessive wait times for loading/unloading (despite that the P&D guys are paid by the hour) or even something as stupid as "I don't wanna go there, the guys that load me are usually a bunch of a-holes".
Seriously. I was asked multiple times to go to a specific place for a pick-up. And before I went, each time I was warned that the guys there may be a bunch of #######es and will try to screw with me. First time I went there I noted that those guys working there were busy as hell and also within my age group. I started out being polite and tried to joke with them. After that didnt work, I noted some dude had his forklift wired to where he had speakers on each side so he could listen to his music while he was buzzing around his workplace. I asked him about it on how it was hooked, then I commented about the music he was playing. Kinda went along the lines how that album of that particular band was probably the last and best album they made (Pearl Jam's Ten album). Some of those guys got much friendlier real fast. Turns out they were actually a bunch of cool dudes.
My terminal still sends me there for pick-ups. Maybe cause I smile and say "right away boss"... or maybe cause they know I actually get along with the shipping crew there. Either way, I get paid more and just BS with the people there. Not my fault everyone else doesnt care to build up some rapport with those guys.
It's worth noting that P&DC drivers don't always fit under the LTL spectrum. Sometimes we will pick up an entire shipment from a customer, and take it to the DC for a OTR driver to repower, or vice-verse. Reasons can be anything from the freight needing to be scanned and logged to the freight needing to go through customs.
Our picks and drops aren't always handled by line haul or OTR drivers, either. Sometimes we pick up a entire shipment and take it to an airport, depending on how soon the freight needs to be at it's destination, and also depending on the customer.Last edited: Jul 22, 2013
I guess all this is a good expiation of what goes on with what are referred to as Less-Than-Trailer Load (LTL) carriers, if you are trying to explain what LTL carriers do to someone who doesn't know anything about trucking. Any trucking school worth its salt should have explained this to people attending their school. If not, than these are things that should have been explained by the OTR Trainer.
There is a lot more to it which I sure you know. Some of the things you said are a little wrong, from a drivers point of view it doesn't really matter, like taxation, credit, discounts, availability, etc.... which is all at the customer level.
Point is the worse LTL carrier is better to work for as a driver than the best TL carrier, unless you want to be an O/O or I/O than the opposite is true.Lilbit Thanks this.
I don't really love my job, I am just thankful I got my start in one that pays my bills and lets me be home every night. CDL1968 is right, truck driving schools should teach people about the actual trucking industry. I posted this as an informative article so people understand the differences between us and OTR. I do appreciate you guys giving me some positive comments though.
By the way, I am looking at leaving the trucking industry here soon. Prolly gonna follow my dream and go to culinary school, join the French Foreign Legion, or do any of the other gazillion jobs that aren't so heavily regulated. Don't know yet... we will see how things go.Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
Gearjammin' Penguin Thanks this.
If you're gonna quit, do it soon.
The first year gets most people. After 5 years you're starting to get a grasp on things. After 10 years you want to quit, but its too late. The road has you. After 15 years, you're content with the road.Shaggy Thanks this.
Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
CenutryClass Thanks this.
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