What Causes TL and LTL Shipping Delays?

delayed LTL shipping

Late shipments are never fun. Few of us have the time to hang around waiting for a delivery all day, so it’s understandably frustrating when the delivery window comes and goes with no shipment in sight. So what’s the holdup? In Southern California, we’re lucky to have safe driving conditions all year round, but rainy days are far from the only factor contributing to delays. The following are a few of the main reasons shipments might run late this holiday season. (Plus, a few tips for helping theTL and LTL shipping system run smoothly!)

Driver Shortage

While we’re happy to say that TL and LTL shipping has rebounded nearly to pre-pandemic levels, there’s a downside. Truck driving is hard work as it is, and many veteran drivers took the pandemic as their final cue to retire. At the same time, restrictions shut down most vocational training programs and prevented new drivers from getting certified. The result? Just as many shipments to deliver, but fewer drivers to deliver them.

Sudden Sick Days

Speaking of the pandemic, as the cold and flu season approaches, more drivers will inevitably call out sick. Because of Covid-19, staff must also be extra cautious about minor symptoms, staying home until they’ve received negative test results. When a driver unexpectedly misses his/her shift, it’s not always possible to find someone to fill in quickly enough to avoid delays. This is a fairly common challenge in the shipping industry, but it will likely be more of an issue this year due to the short supply of drivers paired with extra precautions due to the virus. It’s a hassle, but ultimately, the health of our customers and staff is far more important than any delivery appointment.

Equipment Failures

Everyone breaks down now and again- trucks included! No matter how consistent you are about equipment maintenance, flat tires happen. Good shipping companies do their best to avoid mechanical difficulties on the road, but if and when they happen, all shipments on the truck are bound to be delayed.


If everyone can agree on one thing about Los Angeles, it’s that the traffic is terrible. Luckily, with more people working from home, traffic has been less of an impediment than usual. That said, slowdowns still happen, and there’s not much a driver can do to avoid them.

Delivery Appointments

Delivery appointments are used to coordinate the pickup or delivery of shipments at a time that’s convenient for the shipper or the person/business receiving the shipment. Unfortunately, they also slow things down a bit. Most of the time, delivery appointments aren’t set until the shipments have arrived at the destination terminal. Additionally, LTL carriers have to make it to multiple, logistically planned delivery appointments per day. If something comes up, like bad traffic or getting stuck in a long line of trucks with similar appointment times, each subsequent appointment on the schedule runs late.

What TL and LTL Shipping Companies Can Do to Improve Customer Satisfaction

  • Request larger pickup and delivery windows. Tighter deadlines are harder to keep. Wider delivery windows make it easier to live up to customer expectations.
  • Encourage morning delivery windows that are easier to guarantee, while pushing pick up appointments until the afternoon.
  • Cut off pickup windows at 5 pm to avoid rush hour traffic.

What Customers Can Do to Help

  • If you absolutely need a perfectly timed delivery, choose a delivery window first thing in the morning. Even if it’s harder to fit in your schedule, the first shipment of the day is the least likely to be impacted by delays.
  • Be on time. If a driver arrives to pick up your shipment and you’re delayed, he either has to wait around for you or continue with his route and circle back later. Either way, it makes his day longer, and it makes your shipment later. (Along with everyone else’s!)
  • Similarly, communicate with the consignee who’s receiving the item, because if they miss the delivery window, they might have to wait longer than they anticipated.
  • Be understanding. Truck drivers work tirelessly to get shipments where they need to go, right when they need to be there. How long a shipment takes to arrive depends on so many factors, and it’s rarely the driver’s fault! When a shipment does run late, trust that the driver is doing his best to make it right.


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