LTL Shipping OR "Why didn't they bring the desk to my door?!?" October 17 2013
A major point of confusion for customers not experienced in the shipping and receiving end of the business world is the LTL vs. small parcel shipment issue, and the business vs. residential shipment issue. This can cause major confusion and frustration if you are not aware of these distinctions as they relate to shipping. So I wanted to offer a quick tutorial of sorts.
Small parcel shipment - this is what you would call a typical FedEx or UPS shipment, where they come and drop a small-ish item at your door. For a shipment to quality for a small parcel shipment, it must under a certain size (smaller in dimension than a pallet typically, which is 48" X 40", and weighing less than 150 pounds total). If a shipment does not weigh under 150 pounds, it simply cannot ship small parcel
LTL shipment - on the other hand, any shipment weighing over 150 pounds must be shipped LTL (less-than-truckload). Even with the initials spelled out, this is still confusing for many. Think in terms of the large trucks you see hauling things on the highway. When manufacturers are shipping cartons of computer desks, for example, including hundreds and hundreds of boxes, they might require four truckloads to send these to their warehouse from the dock where they landed (most are manufactured overseas). However, a shipment that must go on such a large truck but is smaller than an entire truckload would be described as "less-than-truckload" (LTL). So any shipment that cannot go with small parcel, either because it is too large or too heavy, must go LTL. LTL shipments are usually secured on pallets (wooden crates) and are shipped along with other heavy shipments that are less than a full truckload.
Business delivery - this is where shipments are delivered to places of business, and what characterizes such deliveries is that they have a loading dock. A loading dock is a garage of sorts that trucks can back up directly to, and the back of the truck lines up with the garage exit (it is about 5 feet off the ground). This enables the warehouse to unload the truck directly without lifting any pallets down. Typically a machine like a forklift drives directly into the back of the truck and removes the pallets.
Residential delivery - this is where a package is delivered to a home, where no loading dock is present. The pallet must then be lifted off the truck or lowered down with something called a lift gate (extra service). This is unusual for LTL shipments.
What you should understand about LTL shipments is that they are being handled by companies who specialize in shipping huge quantities across the country. I would say 90% of LTL shipments are delivered to businesses with loading docks, where forklifts pull the pallets off the truck and place them directly into the warehouse of the recipient. Individual customers are rarely encountered in LTL shipments. So the drivers are not really trained in customer service typically, because they are usually just dealing with a warehouse manager, not a customer. They are also not used to handling your shipment like a small parcel carrier would, so they typically wouldn't consider carrying the box(es) up to your door and ringing your doorbell. This is just not a regular part of LTL shipments, so usually this will not be a part of the service you receive. They are used to dropping the pallets at the warehouse, and for residential deliveries the most they typically do is provide the extra service of a lift gate that lifts your pallet down to the ground so you don't have to get it off the truck yourself. This is considered a premium service (and we pay extra for it for our customers with residential deliveries).
It is tricky. We usually don't want our customers to receive shipments in this way, as we want them to receive the best service imaginable from start to finish on their order. Yet often the only way to get a desk that is heavy to our customer is through LTL shipping. We often try to provide premium LTL service, which is where LTL deliveries are brought across your threshold and the packing materials removed. But often we simply cannot offer this service to our customers at the prices we are offering on the site. We must charge extra for this service, so most customers would prefer to pay less and have to carry their package into their home.
Right now we are working with a few LTL companies who specialize in furniture delivery, so they can offer us competitive rates with other LTL companies and still bring the shipment across the threshold so you don't have to carry it in from your curb (or up flights of stairs). We know this is frustrating, so we are avoiding this whenever possible. If you are ever set to receive a shipment with standard LTL shipping, we will let you know. I hope this helps your understanding of these issues that can be a bit confusing!