Why is my freight late? A coping guide

Why is freight late

People like to use the saying “patience is a virtue” but in this fast paced world it seems like an antiquated idea. We are now conditioned to expect an immediate response to most of life’s problems. Millennials, am I right?

The freight industry is a dinosaur in this regard. Especially the less-than-truckload (LTL) branch  of the industry. Shipping LTL is not designed for instant gratification, in fact it is plagued by delays. Delays frustrating enough to make you yell “Where the hell is my freight?!”. Some of delays are avoidable and having a strong understanding of the differences in carriers can help to mitigate some types of delays.

However, there are some delays, like weather-related delays that are less avoidable. Knowing what you’re in for can really help you better anticipate what might be in store when it comes to delays. Let’s go over some common delays that can happen when shipping LTL.

Weather-Related Freight Delays

Mother Nature can be a vengeful lady. She can throw you curveballs that can really muck up your freight. Excessive rain or worse snow can slow drivers in transit to a snail’s pace. Bigger natural disasters like hurricanes can cause regional shutdowns for days at a time. Those slowdowns can have a ripple effect that can affect freight all over the country and if the storm is big enough and causes enough damage even further down the supply chain.

Most customers don't fully understand the scope of the freight industry and all the things that can cause delays, but weather-related delays are easier to understand than others.


Delivery Appointment Delays

This is an odd one. Some consignees (the person receiving the freight) require an appointment be made before they accept the freight. This is true for a lot of grocery warehouses and distribution centers.

Most carriers won’t schedule an appointment for delivery until the freight is on hand in their terminal. This usually means the delivery is usually pushed a day or even two days if they need to schedule with a software like Retalix. Delivering to a residential address will in most cases require an appointment as well. Be aware of these rules when adding a delivery appointment to a shipment.

Backed-up Terminal Delays

Think of LTL carriers' infrastructure like the nervous system in your body. You have main hub where the headquarters for the company is and usually its largest terminal and distribution is. The brain if you will. Then you have a whole bunch of smaller terminals and distribution centers spread out over the country that the trucks all feed into before they are dispatched out for deliveries.

Sometimes these terminals fall behind with getting all the shipments through on time, which causes a chain reaction and slows the whole system down. Little things like a dispatcher being sick or a broken forklift can really muck up the working of one of these terminals and slow a shipment down. There is little you can do on the shipper side of things to speed this process up. It’s a waiting game. Patience is key.

Shipwell can help!

These are just some of the things that can slow down the shipping process. A whole host of things can happen between pickup and delivery. The best rule of thumb is to take delivery dates with a grain of salt and understand that things can go wrong. LTL shipping is not for the impatient. The more flexible you are the more delightful an experience you will have.

And if you'd like to have a more delightful freight experience, you can reach out to us during normal business hours at 512-333-0898 or at sales@shipwell.com.

Choosing the Correct Freight Class

A word of warning, determining Freight Class can at times seem overwhelming. The industry is in the middle of a shift in the way that class is determined. Some Carriers are sticking to the old ways and rating class by NMFC Codes, while other Carriers are looking to maximize the space available in the their trucks by switching to Volumetric Pricing. This article will give an overview of both ways with a focus on the future.

NMFC Codes

Until very recently, the use of NMFC Codes was the standard for all Carriers when it came to determining freight class. NMFC stands for National Motor Freight Classification.The codes are broken out into classes that encompass the world of shippable items. Items are broken out into categories and then broken down even further into more detailed subcategories.

For example, if you wanted to ship some paintings you would go to the 'Art Objects' codes which start with 052 and then find the code that paintings fall under, which is 05256. These codes are then broken out into the 18 Freight Classes, which can be seen below.

This system is simple in concept, but the variety of shippable items leads to a large list of codes that needs to be sorted through in order to pick the correct code. Some Carriers are attempting to sidestep this system all while maximizing the space in their trailers. This has led to them switching to a Volumetric Pricing structure.

Volumetric Pricing

The basic idea behind the Volumetric Pricing structure is maximization of space. A trailer is finite space and Carriers can only load so much into that space. In order to do that and make money on a load, Carriers need to balance out each load with shipments that make them money but allow them to ship the most per load. There are four major components that go into determining the freight class when using the Volumetric Pricing structure, these are density, stowability, handling, and liability.

1. Density

Density is the biggest factor when determining freight class. Figuring out a shipment's density is simple. First you need to calculate the Length, Width, and Height of the shipment and multiply them together. Once you get that number (assuming you did these calculations in inches) you divide that number by 1728. That is the Volume of the shipment. In order to find the density, you need to divide the Weight (mass) by the Volume you just figured out. That number is the Density of the shipment. This number is measured in pounds per cubic foot. This allows you to more easily pick a freight class. The Classes range from Class 50 which is defined as an item with a weight range of more than fifty pounds per cubic foot and is usually the cheapest to ship, to Class 500 which are items with a density less than 1 pound per cubic foot.

For reference, here's a chart of all 18 Classes with a brief description.

2. Stowability

Stowability is how easily something fits onto a truck. For most freight, this isn’t a major issue. The majority of  freight stows easily and can ship well with other items. However, there are those cases when an item is excessively heavy, long, or misshapen to a point that shipping it with other items is difficult and even impossible. Other factors that go into stowability are if there isn’t a sufficient load bearing surface area to stack on top of.

In recent years Carriers have gotten a lot smarter about how they load their trucks. This sometimes translates into shippers getting charged for unusable space their shipments cause due to their abnormal sizes. Not all Carriers do this, but it is becoming increasingly prevalent, especially with the advent of volumetric pricing across the industry. A little forethought when putting your shipment together can alleviate a lot of headaches and charges down the road.  

3. Handling

Your average freight shipment is loaded and unloaded from the truck with the use of some type of mechanical equipment like a fork lift. If the item being shipped is heavy, misshapen, too fragile to be moved in a normal fashion or is hazardous in any way, it may lead to a class change and additional charges.

4. Liability

Liability refers to the probability of a shipment being stolen, or damaged. If you are shipping high value items or items that are easily broken, the carrier is going to charge more to cover themselves in the likelihood of something going wrong.


The switch to Volumetric Pricing is a slow one, which means you need to be aware of both ways of determining freight class. For the time being, only a few Carriers have made the switch. These Carriers tend to be the budget Carriers who are trying to get the most out of every truck.

The bigger Carriers are still using the old system due to its easier, less hands on approach to picking a freight class. Freight class is a necessary evil in the shipping world, it's not always the easiest part, but having a working knowledge of its ins and outs will make shipping a much more delightful experience.

Freight Class Chart

Class Name



Weight Range Per Cubic Foot

Class 50 – Clean Freight

Lowest Cost

Fits on standard shrink-wrapped 4X4 pallet, very durable

over 50 lbs

Class 55

Bricks, cement, mortar, hardwood flooring

35-50 pounds

Class 60

Car accessories & car parts

30-35 pounds

Class 65

Car accessories & car parts, bottled beverages, books in boxes

22.5-30 pounds

Class 70

Car accessories & car parts, food items, automobile engines

15 to 22.5 pounds

Class 77.5

Tires, bathroom fixtures

13.5 to 15 pounds

Class 85

Crated machinery, cast iron stoves

12-13.5 pounds

Class 92.5

Computers, monitors, refrigerators

10.5-12 pounds

Class 100

boat covers, car covers, canvas, wine cases, caskets

9-10.5 pounds

Class 110

cabinets, framed artwork, table saw

8-9 pounds

Class 125

Small Household appliances

7-8 pounds

Class 150

Auto sheet metal parts, bookcases,

6-7 pounds

Class 175

Clothing, couches stuffed furniture

5-6 pounds

Class 200

Auto sheet metal parts, aircraft parts, aluminum table, packaged mattresses,

4-5 pounds

Class 250

Bamboo furniture, mattress and box spring, plasma TV

3-4 pounds

Class 300

wood cabinets, tables, chairs setup, model boats

2-3 pounds

Class 400

Deer antlers

1-2 pounds

Class 500 – Low Density or High Value

Highest Cost

Bags of gold dust, ping pong balls

Less than 1 lbs.