LTL Shipping

LTL stands for less-than-truckload and is a useful option when your shipment doesn't qualify for parcel shipping but isn't large enough to take up a full freight trailer. With LTL shipping, your shipment is combined with shipments from other companies on a single trailer. Since you only have to pay for a portion of the trailer, LTL is a cost-effective way to ship bulky or heavy items.

When to Use LTL Shipping

There are times when you can't use parcel shipping to fulfill your orders. LTL is an excellent shipping alternative in the following scenarios:

  1. The item you are shipping weighs over 150 pounds.

  2. The item you are shipping is oddly shaped, such as a surfboard.

  3. You need to send several smaller items to the same warehouse and can palletize them to take advantage of LTL shipping rates.

ShipEngine LTL Workflow

LTL shipping is a bit different from parcel shipping and requires a few more steps. Luckily, ShipEngine API provides everything you need to take advantage of the benefits LTL shipping offers. Use the API endpoints in the order listed below to ensure a smooth transition to LTL shipping.

  1. Connect an LTL carrier to your ShipEngine API account.

  2. Request a quote or a spot quote. This is where you will specify the accessorial services, the service level, and type of container you wish to use.

  3. Select the quote that best meets your needs and note its quote_id as well as its service_code. You will need both of these in the next step.

  4. Schedule a pickup from the quote you selected. You will provide the quote_id and service_code identified in the last step. This step creates the bill of lading that you will give to the carrier when they arrive for pickup.


    The bill of lading is produced when you schedule a pickup. You will need to use this endpoint even if your carrier does not support electronic pickup requests in order to create the bill of lading. Creating the bill of lading directly is not yet supported.

    If your carrier supports electronic pickup requests, your request will be scheduled when you create the bill of lading in the step above. If your carrier does not support electronic pickup requests, you will need to call the carrier to arrange a pickup.

  5. Decode the bill of lading in the response, print it, and provide it to the carrier at pickup.

  6. Track your package while it is en route to its destination.

  7. Get documents such as the bill of lading, invoice, delivery receipt, and weight inspection certificate.

LTL Carriers

ShipEngine API supports many LTL carriers to give you a range of shipping options. Not all carriers support all the functionality that ShipEngine API supports. For example, some carriers only allow you to track packages that you shipped outside ShipEngine. Others allow you to create a quote but don't support electronically scheduled pickups. You can view the list of supported carriers to learn which features are available for each carrier.

LTL Quotes

LTL carriers offer predetermined contracted rates as well as last-minute spot quotes. ShipEngine API gives you the ability to request either programmatically.

LTL Service Levels

Each LTL Carrier has its own unique offering of service levels, such as 'Standard' and 'Guaranteed End of Day', indicating when you would like your package delivered. These service levels are referred to as service_code in ShipEngine API to streamline the terminology used across different types of shipping carriers. You can list the service levels for a particular carrier to see what to request in the quote.

LTL Accessorial Levels

LTL carriers typically offer additional services as part of the pickup process. For example, you may need a trailer with a lift gate in order to get your container onto the trailer, or you may need the carrier to come inside to retrieve the container. These extra services are referred to as options in ShipEngine API to streamline the terminology used across different types of shipping carriers. You can list the accessorial services available from each carrier.

LTL Container Types

LTL shipments are packaged differently from parcel shipments since they are either heavy or bulky. For example, your goods may be packaged onto a pallet or skid. These extra services are referred to as packages in ShipEngine API to streamline the terminology used across different types of shipping carriers. Different carriers offer different container types. You determine the container types supported by each carrier.