Truckload vs. Less Than Truckload: What’s The Difference?

Truckload vs. Less Than Truckload: What’s The Difference?

There are many different options to choose from when shipping freight, and zeroing in on what’s best for your goods can feel like a difficult task. With many factors coming into play when making this decision, these considerations can help narrow down what shipping option is best for you. From the size of a package to its weight, its freight classification, and any special services, the right shipping method will become clear - trust us.

But where do you start? When deciding on shipping options, it often comes down to FTL vs LTL. To help determine whether full truckload or less than truckload freight is right for you, we are breaking down all the details of the difference between LTL and FTL to help you choose with confidence.

What Is LTL?

What Is LTL

To answer the question of what is the difference between LTL and FTL freight, let’s start by defining less than truckload.

LTL, or less than truckload, refers to a shipment that isn’t large enough to occupy an entire truck. This shipment is typically between 100 and 15,000 pounds, ultimately only uses a portion of a standard truck size.

Since the size of the shipment won’t take up an entire truck, LTL shipments allow shippers to only pay for the space they actually use. Then, the rest of the truck can be occupied by other shippers - perfect for smaller businesses that don’t ship massive quantities and want to remain within budget.

When it comes to LTL and FTL, LTL is a cost-effective shipping method for smaller shipments. That being said, transit time can be a bit longer due to multiple different shipments sharing a truck. However, in many cases, the cost outweighs the delays.

What Is FTL?

FTL, or full truckload, is a term used when a shipment takes up an entire truckload of space. A full truckload often equates to around ten or more palettes and is ideal for large, bulky shipments.

Due to the sheer size and quantity of larger shipments, it’s often quite clear when shipping with an FTL is necessary. However, if a shipment is fragile or has significant special considerations or services, FTL may also be a beneficial choice.

Since FTL shipments all reside on the same truck, there’s less of a need for transfer during transit, meaning there’s less of a chance of damage to goods. Plus, FTL shipments transport faster than LTL due to fewer stops.

Benefits of LTL

Benefits of LTL and FTL

When debating LTL vs FTL freight, there are a number of reasons LTL will be best for your shipment. Based on the characteristics of your shipment, less than truckload can be an affordable and flexible option. This shipment will be best for you if:

  • Your shipment is a smaller volume, weighs less than 15,000 pounds, and won’t take up an entire truckload on its own.
  • You need a cost-efficient shipping option for your freight.
  • You don’t have a strict, fast delivery time.

Ultimately, choosing LTL vs truckload is ideal for shippers that want a simple solution for a smaller shipment, as well as for small businesses looking to share their products in a more cost-efficient manner.

Benefits of FTL

While LTL certainly has its advantages, FTL is essential for many large shipments. This reliable and fast shipping option is perfect for large freight and is ideal for you if:

  • You have a large enough shipment to fill an entire truck, typically from 15,000 to 50,000 pounds.
  • You are on a tight delivery schedule.
  • You want a truck that solely carries your goods.

With a full truckload, goods require less handling and deliver faster, ensuring you meet your desired transit time and goods are less likely to be damaged. That being said, when looking at LTL vs FTL rates, FTL tends to be pricier.

FTL vs LTL: What to Choose?

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to make a decision - LTL vs FTL freight?

To help you make the best decision, we are breaking down the details of each based on three key factors - shipment handling, shipment size and weight, and costs.

Less than Truckload (LTL) Full Truckload (FTL)
Shipment Handling When opting for less than truckload, your goods are combined with other shipments from other shippers, meaning the truck will have to stop multiple times along the way to deliver each shipper’s package. With this in mind, your goods will likely be handled several times along the way, as well as transferred between trucks to ensure it reaches the right destination. With a full truckload choice, your goods are loaded onto one truck, and that truck takes your goods from point A to point B. This means your goods are never transferred to another truck, limiting the chance of damage.
Shipment Size and Weight Can take around 1-10 pallets in each shipment and can weigh anywhere from 150 to 15,000 pounds. With the capacity to carry up to 26 pallets, a full truck can carry freight from 5,000 to 45,000 pounds.
Costs Costs depend on freight classifications, which are determined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association. This organization offers standard pricing based on class, which is determined by a number of factors including density, type, and ease of transport. Keep in mind, different carriers will offer different rates based on your shipment’s distance, size, and special needs. Unlike LTL, which has pricing determined by freight class, FTL rates are heavily dependent on the supply and demand in the market. However, final prices are negotiable with the carrier.


Ready to explain the difference between FTL vs LTL to everyone you know? With the knowledge of the difference between LTL and FTL and key factors that help determine which is the best method, you’re one step closer to successfully shipping your freight.

For a trusted partner to deliver your goods, Cowtown Express is the answer. With extensive experience with shipments of all kinds, our team will work with you to determine what method is best for your goods, and provide a competitive quote to ensure you remain on budget. To get started with a quote, fill out our form online today.

No items found.