Even if you’re new to freight shipping, chances are you’ve heard of LTL and FTL shipping. For many shippers, the two acronyms can be confusing. The first step before shipping freight is to understand the difference between less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments and full truckload (FTL) shipments.
When choosing a freight shipping method, it’s important to consider the dimensions and weight of your package, quantity, frequency of deliveries, freight class, budget, safety, and delivery time frames.
LTL is best for shipments of one to six pallets measuring less than 14 linear feet. Most small businesses find LTL freight shipment the most beneficial and cost-effective shipping strategy. This is because they only pay for the actual space occupied by their load.
Meanwhile, FTL is beneficial for businesses that can fill an entire truck. Since FTL shipments are at full capacity, the truck only has to travel to one destination via the most efficient route. This means that handling is more exclusive, ensuring faster deliveries and more secure handling.
This article will discuss the key differences between LTL and FTL shipping. We’ll introduce you to some of their benefits and disadvantages to help you gauge which option is the best for you.
What is LTL?
Less than truckload shipping handles the transportation of relatively small freight. LTL services carry multiple shipments from multiple businesses and individual shippers. This means that numerous loads share space on a singular trailer.
If you choose to ship LTL, you will only pay for your pallets’ space. This way, LTL becomes one of the most cost-effective shipping solutions for small to medium-sized businesses.
However, the downside is that LTL carriers will try to maximize the space by filling up the trailer with other shipments. Because of this, LTL trailers need to make more delivery stops, making the delivery timeframe unpredictable. This also means that LTL shipments require more handling.
Benefits of LTL shipping
LTL shipments are attractive for many shippers who can’t fill up an entire trailer. The promising advantages of LTL shipping include:
- Cost-effective: LTL shipping is affordable for shippers moving less than six pallets. They are only required to pay for actual space occupied by freight.
- Flexible: LTL services provide flexibility to small and medium-sized businesses as demand increases and freight costs climb. LTL also offers more service options, including pick-up and delivery, special handling, expedited shipping, and freeze protection.
- Security: Compared to small parcel shipping, LTL freight provides a safer way of transporting goods. Shipments are organized into pallets or crates.
- Eco-friendly: Since LTL combines the shipments of multiple shippers, fewer trucks will need to go on the road. This means that LTL significantly reduces its carbon footprint.
- User-friendly: Many LTL carriers have also adopted technological advancements and cloud-based solutions to make LTL shipping more efficient. Specifically, transportation management systems (TMS).
Disadvantages of LTL shipping
While LTL is beneficial for many shippers, it also has some disadvantages:
- Unpredictable delivery frame: FTL shipments only move from point A to point B. As mentioned, LTL services make multiple stops to fulfill deliveries. This makes it difficult to predict actual delivery times.
- More handling: Since LTL shipping makes multiple stops, the service requires more handling than FTL shipping. However, compared to small parcel shipping, LTL is still more secure.
What is FTL?
Full truckload shipping is for large shipments which can occupy an entire trailer. FTL services carry loads for a single carrier.
Generally, full truckload shipments maximize the entire trailer volume and weigh at least 20,000 pounds, making FTL the best option for large businesses with frequent deliveries in bulk. Since FTL will give shippers a dedicated truck, it is also the best option for those looking for a secure shipping method for high-value cargo. FTL shipments also guarantee a timely delivery since clients don’t need to wait for cargo consolidation.
However, the biggest downside to FTL is that it’s significantly more expensive than LTL freight. Another drawback is that FTL shipping offers less flexible e-commerce services, such as expedited shipping or business-oriented cargo.
Benefits of FTL shipping
As mentioned, FTL freight is the most beneficial shipping solution for large shipments. The most significant advantages of making bulk deliveries via FTL include:
- Ideal for large shipments: FTL is cost-effective for shippers with more than six pallets or loads that weigh more than 20,000 pounds.
- Fast and efficient shipping: FTL services take the quickest and most efficient route to their final destination. Since FTL travels directly from point A to point B with no stops or detours, it’s easy to predict FTL delivery time frames.
- Most secure shipping method: FTL shipments undergo little to no handling after initial loading until the goods reach the final destination. Since the trailer is rarely opened during transport, there’s little risk of damaged or lost freight.
- Ideal for high-value, high-risk, and delicate shipments: This point is directly related to FTL shipping’s advantage of limited handling. Since FTL offers dedicated truck services to one client, FTL is the best option for time-sensitive, high-risk, delicate, and high-value cargo.
Disadvantages of FTL shipping
Unfortunately, not many shippers can book FTL freight services since it’s a more exclusive and costly option:
- Expensive: FTL shipping is more costly than LTL because of economies of scale. Shippers who can’t maximize the trailer’s volume will lose a significant amount of money.
- Limited special handling options: Unlike LTL shipments, FTL carriers rarely offer special handling services, like pick-up and delivery and expedited shipping. Because of this, FTL may not be a good choice for many small e-commerce stores with small volume deliveries and unique services.
- Less flexible cargo mobility: If unforeseen road or truck conditions lead to delivery delays, the shipper will have to handle the repercussions of limited inventory.
LTL and FTL Solutions Online
It can be challenging to weigh the pros and cons of LTL vs. FTL shipping based on your needs. On top of that, you need to research reliable and affordable shipping companies to work with.
An online freight marketplace like GoShip.com can help you get a quotation and book the services of the best freight services in the US.
Both LTL and FTL options are available on GoShip. If you have further questions, contact our support line. GoShip can help you choose the best solution for your business.