What is Amazon LTL and FTL Shipping?
Last week we talked about the way to prepare and send in a shipment to Amazon for fulfillment. One thing to keep in mind about shipments like that is they can get very large and sometimes a little pricey, even with partner carriers. The best way to solve this is to send your FBA shipment into Amazon with less than truckload, or LTL. The problem is, most people don't know how to prepare shipments like this or what Amazon's requirements are. That's what I want to talk about this week.
What is less than truckload freight shipping?
LTL is any shipment via semi-truck that doesn't constitute a full truckload (FTL). For Amazon purposes, the minimum is one pallet of 150 pounds gross weight or more. The gross weight of 150 pounds includes the weight of the pallet. The number one advantage to shipping LTL with Amazon is the cost averaging per unit of shipping. LTL allows Amazon Sellers to send in large quantities of products and pay as little as $0.10 per pound, depending on the density, or class, of the product.
Let's break it down piece by piece to get the best understanding of LTL and how it works. First, to use LTL partnered carriers, you must pause at the "Prepare Shipment" page.
Notice the second bubble selection that says LTL. Choose this for your pallet shipment and click "Which method should I choose?" if you have questions or want to learn more about Amazon's requirements. Once you select this bubble, the next thing to do is pack and stack the boxes.
Packing the boxes is pretty easy as it is the same as the small parcel option for shipping. The stacking for LTL FBA shipments is a bit more challenging. The first thing you will need to ship LTL is a pallet. If your shipment will exceed 72 inches high and 1,500 pounds, then you will need more than one pallet. These are the maximum requirements for Amazon. I would recommend keeping it under 60 inches high and 1,000 pounds for the first few shipments, especially if you do not have access to a forklift.
If you would like to see Amazon's video on building a pallet, you can see it here:
If you watched the video, you should have taken note of a few things they mentioned. If you didn't watch the video, then please take note of these precautions. No less than 150 pounds gross weight, no more than 1,500 pounds gross weight. No higher than 72 inches including the pallet, no more than 1 inch over on the pallet with the boxes. Make sure the pallet stands on its own before stretch wrapping, and make sure to use a proper four-way pallet.
A proper four-way pallet is key. Most people who have not shipped with a freight company before don't know what a proper four-way pallet looks like. A proper four-way pallet has a single runner down the middle and two grooves on each side. A proper four-way pallet is easy to be picked up and moved around with a forklift from any side. These pallets should be free of bad repairs. If there is a repair under the pallet, a forklift or pallet jack could catch on it and cause injury to the warehouse worker. This is true with almost any type of damage or repair to a four-way pallet.
The best way to ensure your four-way pallets are good is to buy them. I do not recommend getting the plastic ones from Amazon because you won't get them back. The plastic ones are good if you are only using them around your warehouse. The last thing to pay close attention to on the pallet is the size. All pallets sent into Amazon should be 40 inches by 48 inches or a reasonable size to accommodate the shipment and still be a good four-way pallet. Another acceptable and fairly common pallet size is 42 inches by 48 inches. Keep in mind it must be able to be picked up by a forklift from any side.
Making sure to follow these requirements when it comes to LTL is important. If you send a pallet into Amazon FBA and it goes against one of their policies, they will charge you a fine. I have seen sellers get fined as much as $25 for sending in bad pallets. Depending on the class of your freight and your overall shipping costs, that $25 fine and the restriction to send inbound shipments could cost as much as shipping the small parcel. If the purpose of using LTL is to save money, then don't use bad pallets.
How do I label LTL boxes for shipping to Amazon?
Great question. Labeling boxes for LTL shipping into Amazon is not very different from labeling them for shipment with small parcel. If you notice for small parcel shipping with Amazon, there are two barcodes. One of these barcodes is for the shipping company (UPS) and the other one is for the Amazon FBA receiving warehouse.
LTL is basically the same, however, the FBA barcode will be generated and place on every box and the pallet labels will be placed on each pallet. Don't worry, the workflow of Amazon seller central will basically guide you through it. Once you print off the box labels, I like to put them to the outside of the pallet so they're easier for the Amazon associate to scan. The pallet labels will go on all four sides of the pallet once you finish stretch wrapping in the next step. If you want to make it super easy for the Amazon associates, then consider putting the box labels on all four sides of the boxes.
How do I stack boxes for Amazon LTL shipping?
Stacking and wrapping the boxes on the pallet for an LTL shipment is not super difficult. Once you do it, you will understand how to do it and it will be easier and easier each time. Stacking the boxes on the pallet is a priority because if they are not properly stacked, then wrapping them is not going to help keep the pallet stable.
The first thing to keep in mind when stacking boxes on the pallet is keeping them inside less than 1 inch over the edge of the pallet. This is an Amazon requirement. I like to keep the boxes no more than up to the edge of the pallet. That is just my personal preference. Once you have the first layer on, you can begin to stack the boxes. This overall process is called tying and tiering. To properly tie & tier a pallet, you just have to keep overlapping the boxes. Make sure they cross each other horizontally and vertically as well.
Once you have the first layer stacked, simply stack the second layer slightly opposite or different to the first layer. Make sure to keep the boxes tight against each other. After you get two layers of boxes stacked, just continue to alternate between patterns. Here is a good example of a correctly tied and tiered pallet:
Please note the chipboard on top is not required. This specific pallet was staged as an example for a full truckload shipment to another warehouse and the boards were used to create more stability. You could use these for Amazon shipments, however, they are not required and if you get a pallet that high, you might as well just build a second pallet. The price of LTL is determined by total gross weight, not the number of pallets.
How do I stretch wrap an Amazon LTL pallet?
Now that your pallet is under the maximum height requirement of 72 inches including the wood pallet, it is time to stretch wrap it. If you are just getting started, do not get caught up in the fancy stretch wrap with the plastic rotator pieces on the end. Depending on where you get them, they can cost as much as $30 per roll. In the grand scheme of things, that is very expensive.
If you don't have a fancy stretch wrap machine, get a decent pair of gloves and wear them when you stretch wrap. You will notice these rolls of stretch wrap are about the same price as a single roll of the fancy ones. I highly recommend buying in bulk because it will help cut down on your overall cost and eliminate the high cost of emergency purchases. Trust me. I've been there.
When you start stretch wrapping, it is important to figure out how to do it by yourself, to begin with. More people will make stretch wrapping easier and there will not always be another person available. Find the end of the stretch wrap and tuck it under a box or wrap it around a corner of the pallet. Start by walking around the pallet while keeping the roll of stretch wrap tight. As you get to each corner, keep the roll of stretch wrap tight as you walk slightly past the corner, then make the turn.
As you continue around the pallet, make sure to move slightly up or down progressively to ensure all the boxes get covered and secured with stretch wrap. Don't worry if the pallet gets covered with stretch wrap or if the top boxes end up slightly loose. Be generous with the stretch wrap and don't hesitate to take an extra lap.
As you near the end of your stretch wrapping, pull the roll tight and rotate it. Do this every two corners. Basically, if your left hand is on top of the roll as you are finishing, move two corners then flip your left hand to the bottom. Move two more corners and rotate your left hand back on top. When you do these rotations, make sure to keep the roll as tight as possible. This will allow you to pull the roll tighter than a regular wrap.
Once again, these pallets are staged for shipping to another company warehouse. The height on these is too high and the metal post on the corners was added for stabilization. Notice how tight the stretch wrap is. This is how to ensure the stability of a properly stacked pallet.
How do I get someone to pick up the LTL pallet for shipping into Amazon?
These are some of the most important steps for sending in your LTL. Make sure you apply your pallet labels to the outside of the stretch wrap. Put one on all four sides. Also, make sure once the shipment is approved you print off two copies of the Bill of Lading (BOL) and make it available for signature by you and the truck driver. Of course, the person who signs for the outgoing shipment doesn't have to be you, but make sure you get the driver to sign a copy for your warehouse to maintain.
Another key piece to shipping LTL is making yourself available. Once the BOL is sent to your email, call the company who is picking up. Whether it's AAA Cooper (ACT), UPS Freight, or another company, let them know where they're picking up. If they show up to pick up and you don't have a forklift, they may not have a liftgate unless you call and let them know. Also, they like to know if they're picking up at a residential or commercial location. If you are shipping from your house, you should be prepared to wait in your driveway for a day or two. I know this sounds ridiculous, but a residential pickup normally adds a day and there is no way of knowing when the pickup will take place.
As you continue to ship LTL for your Amazon FBA business, you will get used to it and be able to do it quicker and more easily. Just make sure to learn as much as you can and apply the lessons to each new shipment.
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