With the regularity of swallows returning to Capistrano, less-than-truckload carriers seem to announce rate increases every year. The practice is so common it has its own acronym: GRI, for general rate increase. Nowadays these announcements often work out to be less general than they used to, says Dave DiSanto of Burlington, MA-based logistics consulting firm DiSanto & Associates. That’s because computer technology allows LTL carriers to fine-tune their rates according to zip code. This year’s average rate increases of 5.80%-5.95% can actually vary by several percentage points, depending on the particular city-to-city lane involved. And as DiSanto points out, major metropolitan areas can have as many as 20 zip codes. If that isn’t enough to encourage careful comparisons, the same city can have rate differences of 20%.

DiSanto offers some caveats for lane shopping: This year’s GRI does show that the Midwest and some areas with major construction projects — Boston, for instance — show greater across-the-board increases than other regions. In addition, the multiplicity of rates for the same lanes holds true from carrier to carrier, so meticulous comparisons are in order.

Lane Change
Baltimore to Salt Lake City 5.31%
Boston to Milwaukee 10.62%
Chicago to Miami 7.42%
Houston to Atlanta 7.42%
Los Angeles to Philadelphia 5.31%
Louisville to St. Louis 5.29%
Nashville to Dallas 6.37%
New York City to Indianapolis 6.34%
Pittsburgh to Chicago 21.41%
Seattle to New Orleans 5.30%
Source: DiSanto & Associates, 2002
Note: Rates shown represent the percentage change from 2001 to 2002 for city-to-city lanes from one major LTL carrier whose GRI was within the recent standard range of 5.80%-5.95%.