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The less than truckload freight management (LTL) industry is evolving. The volume of freight is increasing at a rate to more than double in the next decade, and that is assuming the speed of growth continues at the pace seen in LTL e-commerce over the last two years. The days of handling LTL freight manually are ending, and shippers need to understand how digital LTL shipping will play a vital role in shaping the future of the transportation industry.

Challenges With a Traditional Bill of Lading

A bill of lading is one of the most critical documents necessary in moving freight. It determines who has legal liability and ownership over freight, who is responsible for completing paperwork before crossing international borders when payment is due and much more. The complexity of a bill of lading is expanding, especially in the world of global trade, and a traditional Bill of lading, using paper-based systems, and manual data entry, represents a significant risk. LTL Carriers across the globe are turning to a digital LTL shipping process, taking advantage of the digitized Bill of lading to eliminate uncertainty and move more product, more efficiently. While parcel carriers have moved the overwhelming majority (90+ percent) of bills of lading to digital systems, the LTL industry lacks behind. Up to 75 percent of the LTL industry continues using paper for the bill of lading, yet UPS and FedEx have fully embraced digital LTL shipping, reports Satish Jindel of, due in part to their focus on parcels. A paper-based bill of lading is:

  • Time-consuming and costly. A traditional bill of lading incurs costs of printing the document and labor hours to ensure its proper completion.
  • NOT ECO-CONSCIOUS. Public appearances are everything, and customers are reaching a point where they will work with another company to ensure their personal morals are not infringed upon. In other words, companies that use paper-based processes are not considering customers’ opinions on environmentally friendly methods.
  • Susceptible to damage and mistakes. Paper-based bills of lading can also be damaged easily, and since a backup is not stored in a computer, a damaged or inaccurate bill of lading can have resounding effects throughout the transportation network.

The annual volume of LTL shipments is approximate to a single day of parcels, but that still amounts to more than 40 million shipments tendered for LTL shipping. As shipping capacity grows tighter shippers need more options. With Less than Truckload the prime space for meeting capacity struggles, more LTL carriers will seek to streamline operations and eliminate inefficiencies.

The Evolution of LTL Shipping Practices

Addressing Capacity Woes, Use of Last Mile & How to Choose the Right LTL Carrier

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Digital LTL Shipping Will Shape the Future of the Industry

Transforming traditional LTL shipping best practices into a digital LTL shipping process is the logical choice. Moreover, many shippers use both LTL and parcels, so switching to a digitized bill of lading will be a natural step.  Of course, this still depends on LTL carriers making the switch to use digital LTL shipping paperwork and processes too.

The transition to digital LTL shipping management is essential in the modern world. More e-commerce orders are pouring in, and customers expect a higher degree of service. One of the forms of a higher level of service goes back to smart technology and tracking, providing customers with automated alerts of shipment status and expected delivery dates. Since shippers will need to install and implement technology and systems to gain this level of visibility necessary to customers, the LTL industry must also evolve. In a sense, customers will drive the adoption of digital LTL shipping systems faster than anything else.

Benefits of Digital LTL Shipping

Carriers across the country are working to increase use of digital LTL shipment processing, reports William B. Cassidy of Additional benefits of digital LTL shipping include:

  • Better accountability in determining the liability of shipments.
  • Immediate access to shipment details.
  • Software to create a digital bill of lading is compatible with many TMS platforms.
  • Less risk of errors during transferring of data from paper manifests into a digital bill of lading.
  • Opens the door to use of traceability, tracking technologies, like blockchain and its benefits.
  • Faster shipment tendering.

Putting It All Together

As demand on the transportation industry around the globe increases, carriers, and shippers, will need to find new ways to work together and keep costs under control. At the same time, availability of carriers and capacity will increase as the Uberization of Trucking unites shippers with more shipping options and carriers with more truckers.


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