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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Book Printing: Understanding Freight Terms Can Save You Money

I received an estimate today for a book printing client of mine. She had increased the press run for her company’s annual textbook, but the freight estimate had actually gone down significantly since last year. So I contacted the commercial printing vendor to question the change.

Truckload vs. Less Than Truckload (TL vs. LTL)

If you print a large, multi-page job, the cartoned books may actually fill an entire shipping container. This is known as a truckload (TL) and is an ideal situation. A truckload is dedicated to you. You don’t share the contents of the truck (or other container), so your job goes directly from the origin to destination (particularly useful if your entire shipment goes to one location). There are no other clients’ job cartons on board to be moved around, taken off the truck and perhaps even moved to another carrier (and hence less potential for damage). The pricing is even different (cost per mile rather than per pound) and is often much less. In the case of my client, the increased press run moved her job to a truckload shipper and accounted for the lower price.

The alternate approach to freight is LTL (less than truckload), which is what you will usually need for smaller jobs. Usually, your job and others will go to a hub, where they will be unloaded, inspected, sorted further, and reloaded for subsequent miles of transit.

Since LTL deliveries are routed indirectly, and handled and potentially inspected multiple times, it takes longer for an LTL shipment to reach its destination than a TL shipment.

Benefits of LTL Deliveries

In almost all cases, the size of the delivery will determine whether you will get TL or LTL pricing. And, normally you would want a dedicated truck. But here are some of the benefits of LTL service:

  1. If your job is small, you will still pay a fraction of the cost of hiring a dedicated truck to deliver only your job.
  2. In addition, many LTL vendors will offer additional services, such as “liftgate” service (if you don’t have a loading dock), residential delivery (which is more complicated than commercial pick-up or delivery), inside delivery, and pre-delivery notification. Of course these services come at a price (based on weight or offered for a flat fee). In contrast, many TL carriers will not provide these services, so there are benefits to LTL freight.

Putting Costs in Perspective

To put this in perspective, my client’s job, a 6” x 9” perfect-bound print book with a press run of approximately 11,000 copies, would cost about $700.00 in freight for a truckload (since the quantity of printed books filled an entire semi). Last year, since the press run was smaller (approximately 7,500 copies) the estimates for LTL freight came closer to $1,500.00. So the savings is rather dramatic.

While this is usually not something you can control, being moved from an LTL carrier to a TL carrier does offset the higher cost of printing more copies of your book (or other job), and it is something you might want to ask your commercial printing supplier to research. You might be pleasantly surprised at the pricing benefits you will reap if your job is large enough to warrant TL freight.

A Quick Checklist for TL Freight

If your finished and cartoned job:

  1. weighs more than 10,000 pounds
  2. goes from one point of origin to one destination
  3. and fills an entire truck container

then you might be eligible for TL service.

FOB (“Freight on Board” or “Free on Board”)

FOB stands for “freight on board” (at least in domestic shipping; for international shipping, it can mean “free on board”). It specifies who pays for the loading and shipping of your final job. “FOB Loading Dock” or “FOB Origin” will indicate that you bear the cost of transporting the job back to your office or warehouse. More importantly, if the carrier damages your product, it is your responsibility to seek redress from the carrier.

In my experience, FOB notations are listed on estimates for larger jobs, such as long runs of print books. However, even some smaller commercial printing vendors will charge separately to send your job to your office, particularly if the delivery is interstate.

Things to Consider

Here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Like the cost of paper, the expense of transporting your job from your custom printing supplier to your warehouse may constitute a large portion of the total cost of a job. Therefore, it behooves you to discuss delivery with your printer and get the terms in writing.
  2. Local printers may have delivery trucks in your area regularly and may therefore roll the cost of delivery into the price they quote. Vendors located farther away may include a line item in the estimate for freight, based on the ZIP Code you provide for delivery. In either case, don’t make assumptions. Address freight directly, both in terms of cost and who is responsible.
  3. That said, you could conceivably arrange for freight yourself. Personally, I wouldn’t suggest this. I like the idea of having the commercial printing supplier take responsibility for the timely, accurate shipping of the job, without any damage. I can sleep easier when this is the case.

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