Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping is an essential part of the supply chain that many people new to the shipping industry aren’t familiar with. Any time a company needs to send a shipment that is 12 linear feet or less, LTL shipping provides an effective way to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
Today, we’ll break down the key differences between LTL and Full Truckload (FTL) shipping. Though there are many similarities between the two, there are a few key differences that every shipper should understand.
What is Full Truckload (FTL) Shipping?
First, let’s start with defining Full Truckload Shipping. Full Truckload is sometimes abbreviated as TL (Truckload), OTR (over the road) and more commonly, FTL. Full truckload generally refers to ground transportation with a semi-truck. There are several classes of equipment, but the most common is a class 8 tractor with a 53-foot dry van trailer, though open deck and refrigerated trailers are commonplace as well.
With Full Truckload, only one shipper’s freight moves on the truck. The shipper doesn’t always fill the full capacity of the truck, but has solely reserved the entire truck for their goods. FTL shipments stay on the same truck the entire time and aren’t transferred during transport.
What is Standard Less Than Truckload (LTL) Shipping?
Less Than Truckload is a mode of land transportation that, like Full Truckload, utilizes semi-trucks for shipping. Unlike Full Truckload, LTL hauls more than one shipper’s freight collectively on the same trailer. LTL is ideal for shipments varying from 1 to 6 pallets (as mentioned before, 12 linear feet).
Many companies utilize LTL because it saves them a significant amount of money. This is because they are only charged for the weight of the freight and the space it uses in the trailer. Many LTL shippers also appreciate service options that may not be available with other shipping methods, such as lift gate, notifications prior to delivery, inside pick-up and delivery, and special handling.
What is Volume Less Than Truckload (Volume LTL) Shipping
With Volume LTL shipping, the cargo is larger than a typical LTL shipment, but still doesn't take up the room of a full truck. These shipments consist of 6 or more pallets, weigh over 5,000 pounds, and/or occupy more than 12 linear feet. Such shipments are smaller than a partial truckload, but larger than standard LTL.
Volume LTL uses automated rates for shipments up to 28 feet and 16k pounds. This type of shipping provides many of the benefits of FTL with the cost savings associated with less than truckload. Volume LTL is a popular choice for shippers whose freight takes up more than 20% of the trailer.
Which Type of Shipping is Right for You?
There are multiple factors that should go into your decision-making process, which include determining what's right for your business needs, freight type, and size.
These are not hard-and-fast rules, but generally speaking, you can use the following guidelines when determining whether you should utilize FTL or LTL for your freight.
Use Full Truckload When:
Your product is very delicate or fragile
You require hard-set pick-up and delivery appointments
You are shipping more than 12 pallets at once
Your delivery date is tremendously time-sensitive
Use Less Than Truckload When:
Your product is robust enough (or extremely well-packaged) for increased handling
You have some flexibility with shipping and delivery times
You are shipping less than 12 pallets
You want to save money on the shipping process
What Are the Key Differences Between FTL and LTL?
With Full Truckload Shipping, carriers are not extremely concerned about exact commodity specifications. Finding out whether a product is hazmat, palletized and legal weight is usually enough to provide precise pricing. On the other hand, LTL rates for different commodities can vary widely. Though, this is highly dependent on the shipment’s freight class. All LTL carriers use a freight classification system that’s regulated by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association. There are 18 various classes, which range from Class 50 (the least expensive) to Class 500 (the most expensive).
When utilizing LTL, shippers are only paying for a portion of the trailer’s capacity, which means that there are more drivers, warehouses, and overall stops involved than with Full Truckload shipping. Anything that causes a delay or disruption can result in extra charges. That’s why when shipping LTL it’s important to maintain optimal efficiently through a reliable digital shipping platform. This way, your route is more efficient, and you won’t accrue as many accessorial charges.
With Full Truckload shipping, the driver picks up the product and drives straight to the receiver or consignee. On the other hand, the route is never straight through with LTL shipping, which means it will usually take longer than Full Truckload to arrive at a delivery destination. This means that delivery rates are estimates, rather than guarantees. Fortunately, a majority of top carriers report service levels higher than 90%, which means that LTL shippers can expect most shipments to be on time.
With Full Truckload, the shipper simply loads up the product and the driver heads straight to the delivery destination. With LTL, shipments are loaded in and out of trailers multiple times before reaching a final destination. Though an overwhelming majority of LTL shipments are delivered in pristine condition, the increased handling means increased exposure to potential product damage. Utilizing Full Value Insurance is a great way to guarantee that any loss or damage of product is completely covered.
No matter which type of shipping is best for your needs, there are numerous ways to streamline your procedures, making the process more optimized and efficient. The more familiar you become with both LTL and FTL shipping, the more likely you are to find a solution that works best for you.
Get LTL Quotes for Free
MyCarrier provides Less Than Truckload, Volume Less Than Truckload, and Full Truckload shippers with multiple quotes instantly, all in one convenient place. They can quote, book, and track shipments between all of their providers without needing to scroll through multiple carrier websites. MyCarrier users enjoy increased efficiency, better shipping outcomes, and substantial savings by utilizing a free, user-friendly digital shipping platform.
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