FTL vs LTL: What Is the Difference Between FTL and LTL Freight Shipping?

When it comes to shipping freight, there are several alternatives to choose from. Each type of transportation can be beneficial, however, it depends on your business objectives, type of freight, dimensions, and a few other factors for which transportation method you should use. Before diving into the diverse world of freight shipping, you should get acquainted with the two primary transportation modes: full truckload (FTL) and less-than-truckload (LTL). If you are not familiar with the two, you might be asking how does FTL vs LTL work, and which one will work better for you?

What Is Full Truckload Shipping?

Truckload shipping means your freight fills the entire capacity of a truck’s trailer or a major part of it. Full truckload shipping is the most common transportation mode, with the U.S. full truckload market estimated to equal $950 billion. Carriers mostly move alike freight for large enterprises, suppliers, and retailers.

What Is Less-than-Truckload Shipping?

Unlike truckload shipping, less-than-truckload shipping means that you partially use the trailer space and share the overall load cost with other shippers. The LTL market is small compared to other shipping modes, however, it is popular among small businesses and individual shippers. For small shippers, this method offers much more flexibility and other benefits compared to TL shipping.

What Is The Difference Between FTL and LTL shipping?

The main difference between full truckload and less-than-truckload freight shipping mode is that FTL fills an entire trailer with your freight, therefore you pay for the entire truck capacity, while LTL has multiple shipments combined in one trailer. So, LTL lets you pay for the space your freight uses in the trailer.

FTL shipping and LTL shipping are priced differently. Truckload freight rates are calculated primarily on weight, dimensions, lane, and additional factors, while LTL pricing highly depends on freight classification. This classification is based on a shipment’s density, so different commodity types can have a significant cost difference.

In terms of shipping speed, full truckload often appears to be faster than LTL because of fewer stops during transit. Additionally, FTL shipping involves less freight handling, which technically makes it safer than less-than-truckload.

When to Use Full Truckload?

Full truckload shipping is a fast and reliable way to ship large amounts of freight. Truckload shipping will work for you if:

  • You have enough goods to fill in the entire trailer space (from 15,000 to 50,000 pounds)
  • You have tight shipping deadlines
  • You want a truck dedicated just to your load

Truckload shipping can be more expensive than LTL, but if you ship large volumes of freight, sometimes it’s more cost-efficient to choose FTL. Truckload shipping also requires less handling. This increases the chances of your load having accurate transit time, fewer chances for the delay, and shipment damage.

When to Use LTL Shipping?

Less-than-truckload is an affordable and flexible shipping solution. It offers many benefits for shippers who move larger than parcel items, as well as for small businesses with a small volume of freight. LTL shipping will work for you if:

  • You have a small volume of freight that doesn’t fill the entire trailer (you shipments weight less than 20,000 lbs)
  • You’re searching for a cost-efficient shipping option
  • You’re not very tight on the delivery time

Bottom Line

To sum it up, both truckload and LTL transportation modes can be beneficial. However, it depends on many factors: freight volume, your budget, shipping frequency, and time frames. Either way, both full truckload, and less-than-truckload shipping can be a great option for your shipment!