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, we will not only define LTL but share more about how it works and when it’s most beneficial. Let’s dive right in!

What Does LTL Transportation Mean?

So, what does LTL mean really? The acronym “LTL” stands for “less than truckload.” This freight shipping is used for small freight, or when the goods don't take up a whole truckload of space, making full truckload shipping unnecessary. This kind of shipping is best used when a shipment is between 150 and 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?

When shipping less than truckload freight, shipments heading to the same area are sorted and loaded into various trucks with other goods going to the same area. This way, truckloads can be shared with a number of shippers, while still heading in a cohesive direction for fast, smooth delivery. With this method, shippers are able to get a lower cost, particularly with trucks, since they aren’t dependent on a railroads’ timing and can share the cost of a truckload with other companies.

Benefits of LTL 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.

  • Lowers Cost: One of the biggest perks of LTL freight shipping is that when you pay for only a section of a trailer, 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 actually helps secure goods, ensuring 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 up 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.

What Is FTL?

So, let’s answer your burning 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

To define truckload, it’s best to think of it as the transfer of a large volume of goods. To get even more into the details, there are two types of transportation choices, depending on the number of goods you’re shipping - less than truckload, or LTL, and full truckload, or FTL. 

To differentiate the two, the FTL full truckload definition refers to when one single supplier fills an entire truck that is reserved for just them, meaning the truck will only make stops for their goods. On the other hand, LTL is when a truck carries products from multiple businesses, allowing various companies to share truck space, leading the truck to make multiple stops. 

There are pros and cons to each of these truckload freight shipping options, but ultimately, it depends on the number of goods you’re shipping and the amount of money you want to spend to get them from point A to point B. 

Typically, a company can save money by going with LTL, although, due to the multiple stops the truck will make, shipments can take longer to deliver. However, for full truckload freight shipping, shipments will be delivered all together in one reserved truck, yet this can cost more money. 

The costs of shipping freight via truckload shipping can vary depending on the goods being carried, the distance the truck will travel, and whether you opt for LTL or FTL. Additionally, an expedited shipment will increase prices, and shipments are subject to delays based on natural factors, like the weather. 

How does full truckload work?

full truckload freight shipping

With full truckload freight shipping, goods from one single business are loaded into a truck and shipped to their destination without any additional stops. In using an entire truckload, businesses can avoid any residual damage that can come with multiple stops and shared space, ensuring goods get safely to their destination. Plus, when utilizing FTL, goods deliver faster!

Benefits of FTL

There are a lot of perks to choosing truckload trucking. This reliable shipping method is a go-to when shipping large quantities of goods, and for a good reason. From quick shipping to limiting damage, there’s no wonder this shipping method is so popular. 

For more on the benefits, the pros of truckload shipping include:

  • Quick Delivery: One of the biggest perks of truckload freight is that your goods will deliver in a timely fashion, especially when opting for full truckload freight. 
  • Limit Damage: Due to the various options for different types of goods and the packaging requirements when loading, this shipping can help limit damage to shipments. Unlike a single parcel shipment, LTL and FTL shipments are packaged, typically, in pallets that provide added protection, leaving items less susceptible to damage in the delivery process. 
  • Price: With two options for shipping, FTL, and LTL, you can find an affordable rate for your goods based on size. If your items are big enough to take up an entire trailer, it’s faster to ship freight all in one, but if they take up less than a truckload, LTL is a cost-effective alternative. 
  • Insurance Options: There’s a lot of peace of mind when opting for truckload freight. When shipping with this method, there are a number of insurance options that will ensure the safe delivery of goods. With many possible impacts on truck shipping, from weather to accidents and more, insurance is a worthwhile addition. 

When to Choose Less Than Truckload Freight over the Full Truckload?

Deciding if less than a truckload freight is right for you can feel confusing, but it can actually be quite simple.

When deciding if LTL freight is right for you, start by taking into account the weight of your goods. LTL is most beneficial to freight that's under 15,000 pounds. If your shipment is under this weight, LTL can be a great way to save the most on shipping costs.

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.

What Determines FTL and LTL Shipping Rates?

LTL Shipping Rates

While there is 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 are breaking down each for your consideration.

  • Destination: As expected, the further your goods must travel to reach a destination, the higher the shipping price.
  • Weight and Size: 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 Prepare LTL Freight

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.

  • Proper Packing and Labeling: When shipping freight, it’s often recommended that goods are shipped in pallets or crates. Additionally, each package must be properly labeled on all sides to ensure it continues on the right track through transit.
  • 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.

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

Additional LTL Freight Services

LTL Freight Services

The best part of LTL freight services? They are 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, this service is required.

LTL Freight Best Practices

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

  • Opting for a Transportation Management System: A transportation management system will help provide industry expertise, ensuring 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 consolidating 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 does involve 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, thus creating a good relationship with your carrier of choice.


With all the necessary 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, freight shipping company is a trusted partner, providing reliable transportation of goods with care and expertise. For personalized pricing of your next LTL freight shipment, get a quote online today.

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