Misconceptions about pallets when configuring the LTL Freight Quotes app or plugin.
A common misconception among e-commerce merchants is that they need to figure out how a shopping cart's contents will be palletized to obtain accurate LTL freight quotes. For quoting purposes, the palletization of the contents of a shopping cart is important when the carrier's pricing tariff for the merchant is based on handling unit dimensions (sometimes referred to as "density rated") or the merchant has been granted "pallet rates." These circumstances apply to a very small percentage of e-commerce merchants.
A majority of e-commerce merchants have carrier-provided pricing tariffs that rate freight using the traditional freight class system (a.k.a. the "NMFC" method) that is governed by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association or NMFTA. This standard of rating LTL freight shipments has been in place since 1956.
The freight class system requires that each freight class's total number of pounds be identified in addition to the origin and destination address information. Fees for services such as lift gate, residential address, overlength freight, and others may also apply (and they would also apply for dimensionally rated freight), but the core transportation rate is strictly a function of the total weight of each freight class.
Examples of the impact on an LTL freight quote due to the number of pallets on the shipment
To illustrate this, below are examples of a shipment quoted using the website of a popular LTL freight provider. The provider is a third-party logistics provider (3PL). The 3PL's online shipping portal presents quotes for all the carrier partners in its portfolio that can transport the shipment. Only the three most economical results for the provided shipment details are shown for these examples. The only change between the examples is the number of pallets specified for the shipment.
Quoted shipment with one pallet
Quoted shipment with four pallets
Conclusion for the impact of pallet count on an LTL shipment
The quotes are identical when only the pallet count is changed, and all other variables are constant.
To reiterate, the example is for a merchant who has a carrier-provided pricing tariff based on the traditional freight class system (a.k.a. the "NMFC" method) that is governed by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association or NMFTA. The example is applicable to most e-commerce merchants.
Conclusion: The quotes are identical when only the pallet count is changed, and all other variables are constant.
When does the pallet count matter for quoting purposes?
Accounting for the incremental weight of the pallets
The weight pallets add to the overall shipment won't significantly affect the quoted rate. In the examples above, adding 40 pounds to the shipment weight to account for the addition of a pallet added $7 to the quoted rate. This is a relatively insignificant amount, and Eniture's LTL Freight Quotes products have some simple ways of accounting for it without the need to implement the complexity of a full-blown pallet packaging algorithm. What is available in each product can vary, but look for the following:
On the Quote Settings page (refer to the User Guide for the product you're using), the settings Weight of Handling Unit and Maximum Weight per Handling Unit. These will add weight for pallet(s) to the Cart prior to requesting a quote from the LTL freight provider.
On the Quote Settings page (refer to the User Guide for the product you're using), the Handling Fee/Markup setting can be used to increase the quoted rates to cover the impact of pallet weight.
If the item ships as its own handling unit, on the Product Shipping Parameters page (refer to the User Guide for the product you're using), enable the setting This item ships as its own handling unit and include the weight of the pallet when entering the item's weight. You may need to enable the Pallet Packing feature to access the setting.
- On the Product Shipping Parameters page (refer to the User Guide for the product you're using), you can also consider inflating the weight of the product to build in the impact of palletizing the shipment.
When you're subject to a tariff with dimensional pricing
If your carrier-provided tariff requires that your shipments be dimensionally rated (sometimes called "density rated") instead of using the traditional freight class method, then the number of pallets and their dimensions will matter. In this case, you'll need to enable the Pallet Packing feature, and it will require that each of your products have weight and dimensions recorded.
The Pallet Packing feature is always available in Eniture Technology's BigCommerce and Shopify apps for LTL freight and is easily enabled. WooCommerce will require the installation of an optional add-on plugin that is available from the Eniture Technology website.
Can I use the Pallet Packing feature if I have a traditional "freight class" tariff?
You can use the Pallet Packing feature if you have a carrier-provided pricing tariff that uses the traditional freight class method governed by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). It will introduce an added layer of complexity with an associated cost (each calculated packaging solution results in a charge of a few pennies) that can result in more accurate quotes. However, changes to the quoted LTL freight rates will probably be very small (your circumstances may vary), and most merchants with a traditional carrier-provided pricing tariff will not find the required additional effort and expense worthwhile.
When is pallet count important?
Whether your carrier-provided pricing tariff uses traditional freight classes or dimensions, details for how the shipment is organized are critically important when creating the Bill Of Lading (BOL).
The BOL will contain a section that documents the number of handling units (often pallets), their contents, and their characteristics. This information is used by the transporting carrier to verify what is being picked up at the point of origin and, ultimately, what is delivered at the destination address. The accuracy of the BOL is important for the protection of both the merchant and the transporting carrier. Differences between the details on the BOL and what is delivered to the destination address typically result in a loss/damage claim.
Note: BOL creation is not performed by Eniture Technology's LTL Freight Quotes products. Use an online shipping platform like FreightDesk Online to streamline the process of creating BOLs and booking shipments for your e-commerce orders that will ship with an LTL freight provider.
If you're subject to a pricing tariff that uses traditional freight classes, you can postpone concerns about the number of pallets used for a shipment until it is created during the fulfillment process. As long as all the shipment details are the same (without regard for the pallet count), the shipment charges should match the quoted rate. For the LTL Freight Quotes products, concentrate on identifying each item's correct weight and freight class.
If you're subject to a pricing tariff that uses handling unit dimensions or provides access to pallet rates, the number of pallets becomes an important variable during the quoting process. In these cases, you'll need to utilize the Pallet Packing feature so that the pallets and their characteristics can be determined for a shopping cart prior to requesting shipping quotes from your LTL freight provider.