What Is LTL Freight Shipping ‌and‌ ‌How Is It Different from the FTL Freight Shipping?‌

What Is LTL Freight Shipping ‌and‌ ‌How Is It Different from the FTL Freight Shipping?‌

Ever wonder how small businesses get their products from one place to the next? From distribution to packages sent to retailers and customers across the world, small businesses rely on boxes, crates, and pallets to ensure their goods get delivered safely and on time. But how exactly is this done?

With LTL freight shipping, these businesses can ship large quantities of their goods or the bulkier items they have at a more affordable cost. With allocated space on a truck to ship their goods, LTL shipping makes their processes more efficient.

Still asking yourself, “What is LTL shipping?” In this guide, our experts at Cowtown Express will define LTL and share more about how it works and when it's most beneficial. Let's dive in!

What Does LTL Transportation Mean?

So, what does LTL mean really? LTL freight shipping is a cost-effective solution for businesses that need to ship freight but don't have enough to fill an entire truckload. The acronym “LTL” stands for “less than truckload,” meaning that your shipment shares trailer space with various shippers' goods. This shipping method is ideal for shipments ranging from 150 to 15,000 pounds.

Now that you can answer, “What is an LTL freight carrier?,” let's explain more about why this is a useful shipping method. With LTL shipping, a shipper only pays for the portion of a truck that their goods take up, while shipments from other companies are paid for by those shippers. This helps save on costs while still getting valuable space in a trailer.

How Does LTL Work?

LTL Transportation

Knowing what LTL stands for is one thing, but what does LTL transportation mean?

In LTL shipping, your goods are combined with other shippers' freight on the same truck. The truck makes multiple stops to pick up and deliver shipments along its route. This allows for cost savings as you only pay for the trailer space your shipment occupies, rather than the entire trailer.

Benefits of LTL Freight Shipping

There are many advantages to opting for LTL shipping. From lowering the cost to boosting security, here are the top reasons to choose this shipping method.

  • Lower Cost: Shipping LTL freight is more cost-effective than full truckload shipping when you have smaller shipments. One of the biggest perks — you pay for only a section of a trailer, and you save on the space your goods would otherwise neglect. This way, the shipping company can cover the price of the rest of the truck with goods from other shippers.
  • Boosts Security: When choosing LTL shipping, goods are often packaged in pallets. This packing method helps secure goods and ensures they arrive safely and without damage. Plus, unlike a one-off parcel, a package is less susceptible to theft.
  • Tracking: Tracking capabilities are top-notch when choosing LTL carriers. This way, you'll know just when your goods are arriving and can go back and reference in case there are any changes.
  • Environmental Benefits: LTL shipping can actually do a great deal to reduce emissions. Instead of multiple trucks shipping out individual orders from companies, LTL allows shippers that don't take up a full truckload to share the space, limiting the number of trucks on the road.
  • Small Business-Friendly: Not every company has enough orders to fill an entire truck, particularly small businesses. These smaller companies can greatly benefit from LTL shipping, spending less money to ship while still sharing their products across the US.

Drawbacks of LTL Freight Shipping

While LTL shipping offers undeniable advantages, it's important to be aware of the potential downsides:

  • Longer Transit Times: Since LTL shipments involve consolidating freight from multiple shippers and making various stops along the route, deliveries can take longer compared to dedicated full truckload (FTL) shipments.
  • Increased Handling: LTL freight is loaded and unloaded multiple times at terminals during transit. This increases the risk of damage, especially for fragile goods.
  • Potential for Delays: The LTL shipping process relies on coordination between multiple shipments. If there are delays with other shipments on the truck, it can impact your delivery schedule.
  • Limited Capacity During Peak Seasons: During periods of high demand, finding available LTL capacity can be challenging and lead to delays or higher rates.
  • Suitability Restrictions: Not all types of freight are ideal for LTL. Extremely fragile, oversized, or hazardous materials often require specialized FTL transportation.

What Determines LTL Shipping Rates?

What Determines LTL Shipping Rates?

While there’s a standard weight range with LTL shipping, rates still vary from shipment to shipment. There are a number of factors that can contribute to higher and lower rates, and we’re breaking down each for your consideration.

  • Destination: As expected, the further your goods must travel to reach a destination, the higher the shipping price.
  • Freight Class: The dimensions and weight of your shipment will categorize your goods under a freight class, which directly links to different rates.
  • Mode: The mode of shipment also has an impact on price. Whether you opt for special services due to delicate products or expedite your shipping so it arrives faster, all of these changes and customizations can impact the final costs.
  • Type of Shipping Needs: If goods are fragile, perishable, or hazardous, different tactics must be taken to arrive safely, thus increasing costs.

How to Lower LTL Freight Rates

Shipping costs can quickly add up, especially when dealing with less-than-truckload shipments. However, several strategies can reduce your LTL freight rates and keep your shipping expenses under control.

  • Be Flexible: If your delivery timeline isn't urgent, slower shipping options can save you money.
  • Accurate Freight Class: Double-check your shipment's dimensions and weight to avoid a higher freight class.
  • Consolidation: Combine multiple smaller LTL shipments into a larger one whenever possible.
  • Packaging: Optimize packaging to reduce the dimensional weight of your shipment.

FTL vs. LTL: What to Choose?

Truckload refers to the transfer of a large volume of goods. There are two types of truckload shipping: less than truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL). FTL shipping is when one supplier fills an entire truck reserved for their goods, while LTL involves multiple businesses sharing truck space, leading to multiple stops.

What Is FTL?

So, let's answer this important question — what is truckload shipping?

A truckload shipping method, in its most simple definition, refers to the transportation of goods by road. Through this method, goods are carried by a large truck trailer across expansive distances. Additionally, these trailers can carry large quantities of goods, usually up to 45 pallets or 43,000 pounds. This is thanks to their size, usually ranging from 48 to 53 feet long.

What Is the Difference Between Full Truckload Shipments and Shipping LTL?

The choice between LTL and FTL depends on the number of goods being shipped and the budget. LTL can be more cost-effective but may take longer due to multiple stops, while FTL offers faster delivery but at a higher cost.

To help you make the best decision, we’re 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.

How to Optimize LTL Freight Shipping: 5 Steps

How to Optimize LTL Freight Shipping: 5 Steps

#1. Planning and Preparation

One of the most important parts of LTL shipping is preparation. To ensure items arrive without damage and on time, there are three key preparation steps that will keep your shipment safe.

  • Consolidate Shipments: Where possible, combine multiple smaller LTL shipments into a single larger shipment. This helps secure a lower freight class and optimizes space usage.
  • Schedule in Advance: Avoid last-minute rush shipments by planning ahead, especially during peak seasons. Early booking can lead to better rates and smoother operations.
  • Dimensions: Before shipping, be sure to find the height, width, and length of your package. The dimensions are critical when calculating costs, and taking an accurate measurement will save you time and money.
  • Documentation: Be sure to have the bill of lading, or BOL, throughout the shipping process. This document has all the information about your shipment and is helpful for the carrier when transporting your goods.
  • Flexibility: Be open to alternative shipping dates or slightly longer transit times if it can result in cost savings.

LTL freight shipments take a moment to get in order, but with these three notes, you can ensure the process runs smoothly.

#2. Freight Class and Documentary

To maximize your LTL freight shipping success, accuracy is key. Here's how to ensure your freight is classified and documented correctly:

  • Precise Freight Classification: Ensure the correct freight class for your shipments based on dimensions, weight, density, and NMFC guidelines. Incorrect classification can result in unexpected fees.
  • Complete and Accurate Documentation: Provide detailed and error-free shipping documentation to avoid delays and potential re-weighing or re-classification costs.

#3. Packaging

Protect your shipments and optimize your LTL freight costs with effective packaging:

  • Optimize Packaging: Compact packaging and efficient use of space keep dimensional weight down, a key factor in freight shipping costs. Avoid oversized containers and unnecessary filler.
  • Palatalize Properly: Secure goods to pallets with shrink wrap, proper stacking, and secure straps to prevent damage during transit. This is essential for safe and efficient LTL freight.
  • Label Clearly: Clear, detailed shipping labels on every pallet or crate with complete destination addresses, contact information, and special handling instructions are vital for the LTL carrier to get your goods to the right place.

#4. Carrier Relationships

Strong carrier relationships can streamline your LTL shipping and often lead to better rates:

  • Choose the Right Carrier: Research carriers that specialize in your type of freight, have a strong track record within your shipping lanes and offer competitive rates.
  • Leverage Technology: Utilize carrier-provided online tools for scheduling pickups, generating paperwork, and real-time shipment tracking.
  • Negotiate Volume Discounts: If you ship regularly, don’t be afraid to negotiate volume-based discounts or long-term contracts with your preferred LTL carrier.

#5. Additional Tips

These additional tips help you get the best out of your LTL freight shipping experience:

  • Ship During Off-Peak Days: Explore shipping during quieter days (e.g., Tuesdays or Wednesdays) for potentially lower shipping rates.
  • Consider a 3PL: If your LTL freight needs are complex, a third-party logistics (3PL) provider offers expertise in carrier relationship management and negotiating the best pricing for your shipments.

Remember: LTL optimization is an ongoing process. Regularly review your shipping practices, monitor carrier performance, and stay informed about industry trends to continually refine your approach.

Additional LTL Freight Services

Additional LTL Freight Services

The best part of LTL freight services? They’re customizable. Based on what unique needs your goods have or the timing you're working with, your LTL shipment can be adjusted with these additional services:

  • Expedited: If your shipment needs to arrive at the destination quickly, expedited shipping is the answer. This is more expensive but can save major time in the transit process.
  • Liftgate: For shipments above 100 pounds, a liftgate is used at locations where a dock isn't available to transport the goods right off the truck.
  • Limited Access: This option is best for when shipping to areas that aren't commonly accessed, like more rural areas, strip malls, construction sites, or campgrounds.
  • Inside Pickup and Delivery: In this case, a carrier will need to go inside to get a shipment or deliver it, and this service is required.

LTL Freight Best Practices

Once you decide on LTL shipping, there are some best practices to keep in mind so that your goods are delivered successfully and in wonderful condition. These considerations include:

  • Opting for a Transportation Management System: A transportation management system will help provide industry expertise and guarantee that you get the best price and efficient shipping with every order.
  • Leverage Consolidators: To ship with LTL, it's beneficial to tap into a consolidating company for its expertise. Freight consolidation experts can bring partial loads into their centers, using their technology to build full truckloads to ensure the most efficient truckload. This process can save both time and money, but it involves a lot of planning from the experts.
  • Accurate Shipment Information: As we shared before, gathering accurate information about what you're shipping is a must. From the height, length, and width to the weight, this information is essential to shipping companies when coordinating LTL shipments. This will greatly help the carriers and help create a good relationship with your carrier of choice.

Optimize Your Supply Chain with Cowtown Express LTL Freight Shipping!

The LTL industry plays an important role in the supply chain, offering businesses a cost-effective way to ship LTL freight. By understanding how LTL shipping operates and implementing best practices, you can optimize your shipping methods and achieve significant cost savings.

Now that you have the knowledge on less-than-truckload freight shipping, how it's done, and important considerations to ensure a damage-free, cost-effective shipment, it's time to get packing!

To help you through the process Cowtown Express is a trusted partner, providing reliable transportation of goods with care and expertise. We have over 35 years of experience and our number of satisfied customers continues to grow. For personalized pricing of your next LTL freight shipment, get a quote online today.


Want Your LTL Shipment to Go Smoothly and on Time?

Choose Cowtown Express!

Contact Us

No items found.