Have you been in the over-the-road trucking business for a while and are looking for something that can get you home more often? Maybe your circumstances have changed and being out for weeks at a time is no longer a good fit for you and your family. The nice part about the trucking industry is that there are many avenues you can take to make it work for you. It’s not a one-size-fits-all business.
What is LTL Trucking?
“Less Than Truckload” trucking is exactly as it sounds. It means that instead of carrying a full truckload to one customer from one destination to another you fill up your trailer with multiple loads from different shippers with different destinations (typically in the same region). This allows for lower shipping rates for small businesses and a larger revenue opening for truckers as they are bringing in money from several different customers while driving a route they normally would anyway.
These loads differ from hotshot trucking which is typically being expedited from one point to another but can sometimes be found in the same areas of load boards.
Most frequently these loads are completed with dry freight, refrigerated, roll-side, and small tandem trailers, but depending on what type of freight you will be hauling will determine what kind of trailer you will need.
Why Become an LTL Truck Driver
There are many advantages to being an LTL truck driver. Since you complete many stops throughout the day you normally drive in a smaller area and are able to be home every night. This can be a huge advantage to drivers that have families and want to be able to have more home time instead of being stuck out on the road and missing big events and daily time with their families.
The job market for LTL drivers is typically more competitive as many shippers and companies want to work with drivers who have some experience under their belts. Many places you will need to deliver are not set up with large docks or loading/unloading bays and it takes a driver who knows what they are doing to make sure the process is completed smoothly and without incident.
LTL drivers tend to have regular routes which make them more dependable on income each week. If you are driving over the road and picking up loads as you go you don’t always know what your paycheck is going to look like. When you drive the same routes each week and work with many of the same shippers you have a more stable setup.
LTL loads help you get paid for every square foot of your trailer. When hauling full loads you will often negotiate with one shipper as they are trying to get the best rate. When hauling LTL loads you are able to negotiate with multiple shippers and charge for the space and weight their products take up in your trailer. This gives you more control and more wiggle room to increase your overall revenue.
How to Get an LTL Contract
Many LTL loads are completed by larger companies such as FedEx Freight, UPS, DLH, and others who specialize in this area.
With the growing industry of small businesses and Etsy shops, there is more need for LTL carriers. This opens up the lane for Owner Operators to reap the benefits of LTL routes. There are a few different ways to find LTL roads to fill up your trailer.
The best, and most profitable, option is to get loads directly from shippers that you have built relationships with. They know that they are getting a dependable driver and you know that you will get consistent loads and dependable pay. This doesn’t happen overnight and is more like an end goal after building up your business.
Another option is to work with a freight broker. These are people or businesses that have already built relationships with shippers and know what loads are needing to be dispatched. This does come at a cost as they will take a percentage off the top of whatever your loads bring in.
The best way to get started with LTL trucking is to use free load boards. These won’t bring in the best paying jobs to start off with as there is a lot of competition for loads and there will always be a driver willing to haul for less, but it does give you experience and gives you the opportunity to build relationships with shippers. There are also endless amounts of loads out there and several different load boards. This takes some extra legwork on your part to search through, and will definitely be some trial-and-error but anything worth doing takes a bit of work.
When going through the load boards you can search specifically for LTL loads. This will help narrow down your options of what you want to haul and what area you want to work in.
What to Expect Being an LTL Truck Driver
Before jumping into becoming an LTL truck driver you will need to be clear on what some of the expectations are as they do differ a bit from driving over the road.
As we had mentioned earlier many of the places you will be delivering to do not have a large setup for unloading/loading like large shippers. You will be going to small businesses, and residences, and often need to figure out how to maneuver your large truck and trailer into a spot that isn’t designed for it. This is why they prefer drivers who have experience with their vehicles.
You will also need to help load or unload the cargo from your trailer at the destination. Unlike over-the-road drivers who normally deliver to places that have staff to complete this task, LTL is much more hands-on. If you enjoy driving but are looking for a way to build more physical activity into your day this would be a great way to do that.
While LTL trucking might not be for everyone if you prefer to see the country and spend more time on the road it can be a great fit for truckers who would like to stay in a more central region while also getting to make multiple stops along the way.
Are you looking to embark on the journey of becoming an owner-operator? Perhaps you’re just looking for a more efficient TMS to handle your company. Truckbase has been helping companies and small business owners build their business without breaking the bank. Simple to use for anyone from office to driver, Truckbase has you covered. Learn more about our TMS today by setting up a demo!