What exactly is volume freight? And why does no one seem to agree?

By: Lance Healy

As we’re working on some exciting new expansions to the Banyan volume freight functionality, we’ve discovered that there is some misunderstanding of volume freight. We already know the most common over-the-road modes of freight: some of us see parcel packages on our front porch every day this time of year (‘tis the season!), and less-than-truckload and full-truckload are self-explanatory. So, what exactly is volume shipping? And where does it fit in?

But before we get there, this brief history is important – Banyan was created 15+ years ago, in short, because we saw a major gap in rating and shipping LTL freight, which is traditionally a complicated mode of freight. When it comes to the nuts and bolts, volume shipping isn’t all that different, and we knew our customers needed support in automating all modes of shipping. So more than 3 year ago, we launched volume freight rating in the Banyan platform. Today, Banyan offers the only TMS platform built on the power of live carrier connectivity, with more than 1,400 parcel, LTL, volume, and full truckload carriers. And in addition to our TMS platform, we provide live carrier connectivity integrated into your TMS, ERP, or WMS platforms.

All that to say, Banyan is the most experienced in live connectivity with carriers, and we’re excited to lead the charge with the most robust platform for all modes of over-the-road freight, including volume.

What is a volume shipment?

A volume shipment is most commonly defined as a shipment that exceeds the space, weight, or cubic capacity limitations of a standard LTL, but does not take up enough space to justify shipping as a full truckload. A volume shipment is priced based on the space it takes up in a trailer and the current traffic in the shipping lane. Typically, a volume shipment is greater than 5,000lbs, 6 pallets or more, and takes up 12-32 linear feet of trailer space.

Volume pricing often applies when freight is a large-volume, high-classed LTL shipment – meaning, that if you’re shipping something light (e.g., cotton balls or bubble wrap), it may make more sense to ship via volume freight vs. LTL.

The objective of volume freight is really to provide a fair price point taking into account the dimensions and weight of the product.

Securing a volume freight quote has traditionally been a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. Due to its complexity, some carriers will avoid volume freight altogether, or will wait only until they can use volume freight to fill the last of a truck. This leaves shippers waiting for quotes and crossing their fingers that the carrier will call them back.

The increase in e-commerce is only adding to the volume of volume freight (see what we did there?!). Items like oversized bean bag chairs for your nephew’s birthday, or the new couch for your living room could very well be shipped via volume freight.

Volume shipments are often handled by the traditional LTL carriers, because those carriers are generally more experienced with the intricacies of the complex shipments. Additionally, the majority of LTL carriers have already invested in technology to automate the process of rating and tendering loads, which is applicable and beneficial to volume shipments, as well as LTL.

An important thing to note: Every carrier has different limitations in their accessorial offering with volume shipments, and they do not necessarily match their offering with LTL shipments.  For example, some carriers do not support any accessorials for a volume shipment. Therefore, if a shipment requires a lift gate, the client may need to ship via LTL instead of volume. The important thing to remember is that while there are a lot of similarities, volume and LTL shipments do have notable differences that will define whether it makes sense to ship LTL or volume for any given shipment.


So what’s the confusion?

The important thing to remember about volume shipping is the definition of volume freight, including the weight and dimensions, typically varies by carrier. For example, Carrier A could say that shipment qualifies for a volume quote at 8 or more linear feet, Carrier B could say a shipment qualifies for a volume quote at 10 or more linear feet, and Carrier C may not even offer volume quoting. So, even if Carriers A and B overlap and both define the same exact shipment as volume, Carrier C could still say it’s LTL.

And to add to the confusion, in shipments with multiple volume items, some carriers will quote it based on a sum of the floor space, and others may consider the product freight class.

The complexity of quoting volume freight has frankly kept many carriers from offering volume as an option, which means that carriers are missing an opportunity to provide competitive pricing on these types of shipments, and Thus, shippers may find it difficult identify carriers offering automated volume rating.


Technology to the rescue

An easy-to-use, robust platform for shipping freight is critical for operational efficiency, and when it comes to traditionally complex volume shipments, that becomes even more true.

A technology platform isn’t going to change the fact that carriers will approach volume quoting uniquely, but it does provide a framework to offer the best information possible in a standardized format.  And when you offer information in a standardized format, it opens the door for more carriers to automate quoting, which means shippers can receive multiple quotes back for a single shipment, ensuring the best price for every shipment.

An added benefit of automated volume freight rating as part of a comprehensive, multi-modal platform is that shippers can easily compare quotes between volume and LTL. This is especially beneficial in volume freight vs. LTL because of the wide variance in how carriers define LTL vs. volume freight. At the end of the day, shippers want to make sure they’re getting the best price and that they’re doing so efficiently; automated freight rating in a multi-modal platform ensures the best price for every shipment, letting the technology do the heavy lifting for you.

Volume freight doesn’t replace LTL. In fact, the adoption of automated volume freight as a standard mode of shipment creates opportunities for everyone involved: 1. Carriers receive better information regarding the shipment, and can consequently offer more competitive pricing where it makes sense for them, and 2., shippers benefit from that better pricing, while automating a traditionally manual and complex process. It’s a win-win!

If you’d like to learn more about shipping volume freight with real-time connectivity with your carriers, contact us today.


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