What You Need to Know About FTL vs LTL Shipping

Fedex LTL
  • February 16, 2023

When it comes to shipping freight, shippers must consider size, speed, and price when deciding between Full Truckload (FTL) and Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping. FTL is typically more expensive than LTL but offers faster delivery times for large shipments and is more cost-effective when looking at the cost of transporting each item when a truck is full when compared to shipping an LTL shipment. On the other hand, LTL requires less of a cash outlay because of shipping fewer items.  Their delivery times typically are also slower as multiple shipments are consolidated on the same truck and then taken to another terminal where they are broken out and then placed on a truck for final delivery. 

In this article, we will delve deeper into the main differences between LTL vs FTL shipments, providing a comprehensive understanding of which shipping method suits your needs best. We will examine the advantages and disadvantages of each type of shipping, as well as the optimal scenarios for their utilization.

Comparison of FTL versus LTL

FTL trucking, also known as full truckload, is a shipping method that involves filling an entire trailer with your own goods. This is different from LTL (less than truckload) freight, which is used typically for shipments of less than 10,000 pounds or 10 pallet spaces (varies by carrier).  The main distinction lies in the size and handling of the shipments.

FTL is typically used for large shipments of 10,000 pounds or more or more than 10 pallet spaces that require a full truckload (typically up to 44,000 pounds). With FTL, the entire trailer is dedicated to your shipment, providing faster delivery times as there are fewer stops and no need for unloading and reloading at transfer points. This direct approach ensures that your cargo remains securely in the same truck from origin to destination.

On the other hand, LTL freight is better for smaller shipments. It consolidates multiple shipments onto the same truck, allowing shippers to share the transportation costs. However, this consolidation leads to slower delivery times as there are more stops involved, and the cargo needs to be unloaded at transfer points to accommodate other shipments. It's important to note that this shared space can also increase the risk of theft or damage, as multiple shipments are transported together.

In summary, FTL trucking is suitable for larger shipments that require a full truckload, offering faster delivery times and increased security. On the other hand, LTL freight is more cost-effective for smaller shipments, but comes with slower delivery times and decreased security due to sharing the truck with other shipments. Understanding the differences between FTL and LTL can help you make informed decisions when it comes to your shipping needs.<

Advantages and Disadvantages of FTL and LTL Shipping

FTL shipping has several advantages over LTL. FTL offers faster delivery times, greater security, and fewer handling points. FTL is also more flexible as there are limited restrictions on the size and weight of the cargo. FTL also has a lower cost per unit when compared to shipping only one pallet on an LTL shipment.  The disadvantage of using a full truckload is the amount of product a company has to buy, and the total invoice amount paid for the product and the truckload.  Sometimes a company doesn't need a full truckload of a product. 

The main advantage of LTL shipping is you can ship less than a full truckload. Since multiple shipments are consolidated on the same truck, the invoice cost is lower. LTL also offers more flexibility in terms of size and weight as there are no restrictions. On the downside, LTL delivery times are longer, there is a greater risk of theft or damage to the cargo, and there is a limit on the number of pallets and weight restrictions.

Use Cases for LTL vs FTL

FTL is the preferred option for large shipments that must be delivered quickly. FTL is also ideal for high-value or sensitive cargo that requires enhanced security. FTL is typically used for shipments of 10,000 pounds or more.

LTL is best suited for small and medium-sized shipments that don’t need to be delivered urgently. LTL is also ideal for shipments that require consolidation at transfer points and have a lower value or are less sensitive. LTL is typically used for shipments of less than 10,000 pounds.

Tips for Successful Freight Transport with FTL or LTL Shipments

  1. Choose the right carrier: When it comes to freight transport, it is crucial to choose the right carrier that offers the best value for money. Factors such as delivery time, reliability, and cost should be considered when making your selection. Choosing the lowest price does not always provide the service you need.
  2. Properly package and label your shipment: Proper packaging and labeling of your shipment can help prevent damage during transit and ensure that your shipment arrives at its destination on time. Make sure to use sturdy boxes and packaging materials, and clearly label your shipment with the recipient's name and address. 
  3. Accurately document and communicate the shipment details: Accurate documentation and communication of the shipment details can help prevent delays and ensure that your shipment arrives on time. This includes providing a complete and accurate packing list, shipment weight, and dimensions. 
  4. Choose the right mode of transportation: Depending on your shipment's size, weight, and delivery time requirements, you may need to choose between FTL vs LTL shipment. 
  5. Monitor your shipment: It's important to monitor your shipment throughout the transportation process. This includes tracking its progress, making sure that it is delivered on time, and addressing any issues that may arise during transit. This can be done through online tracking systems or by contacting your carrier directly.

Freight Shipping

When using LTL vs FTL to transport freight, it’s important to consider size, speed, and price. The right choice will depend on the specifics of each shipment. FTL should be used for large shipments that require faster delivery times while LTL should be used for smaller shipments that don’t need to be delivered urgently. It’s also important to conduct research and compare prices from different carriers before making a decision.

By understanding the differences between FTL and LTL shipping, shippers can ensure that their freight is transported safely and efficiently at the best price. Armed with this knowledge, shippers will be able to make informed decisions when it comes to FTL versus LTL freight transportation.

What are the drawbacks of FTL trucking when compared to LTL trucking?

Full truckload shipping offers cost-effectiveness in comparison to less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping; however, it comes with its set of challenges.

First, to make the most of the cost savings in full truckload shipping, companies need to order in large quantities, which can require a significant upfront investment in inventory. In contrast, LTL allows for the shipment of smaller quantities, offering a more flexible and financially manageable option.

Second, the responsiveness of full truckload carriers is a drawback, as they may struggle to accommodate last-minute requests due to the rigid nature of their operations.

Finally, external factors such as mechanical issues, border delays, or unexpected delays from previous loads can impact the on-time pickup and delivery of full truckload shipments. LTL carriers, with their set schedules and terminal-to-terminal consistency, have a high on-time performance for delivering less-than-truckload freight. As businesses weigh the trade-offs between cost efficiency and flexibility, these drawbacks highlight the importance of selecting the right shipping solution based on specific logistical needs.

How can a Transportation Management System (TMS) help Determine the Best Shipping Method for a Business?

A transportation management system (TMS) can greatly assist businesses in determining the most suitable shipping method for their needs. By integrating a TMS into their logistics operations, businesses gain access to a comprehensive platform that consolidates a vast amount of data and provides unparalleled visibility. This enables businesses to accurately analyze key factors such as the nature of the shipment, load size, and desired delivery timeframe, allowing them to make informed decisions regarding the most appropriate shipping method - whether it is less-than-truckload (LTL) or full truckload (FTL).

The TMS system streamlines the process by aggregating various data sources into a centralized dashboard. Through this user-friendly interface, businesses can easily optimize shipping loads by assessing available carrier options for both LTL and FTL. By comparing rates, transit times, and carrier availability, businesses can make an informed decision on which shipping method is best suited for their specific requirements.

Additionally, the TMS system facilitates seamless communication with both LTL and FTL carriers. This direct line of communication ensures that businesses have access to real-time updates on shipment status, enabling them to track and monitor the progress of their deliveries. Additionally, businesses can engage in effective collaboration with carriers, resolving any potential issues or concerns promptly to ensure a smooth shipping process.

In determining the best route for a shipment, a TMS offers tremendous value. By leveraging advanced algorithms and analytics, businesses can optimize their shipping routes to minimize costs, reduce transit times, and enhance overall efficiency. The TMS platform takes into account various factors such as distance, traffic conditions, carrier capacity, and delivery deadlines to suggest the most optimal route for each shipment.

Many companies though don't have the internal resources or it is not their highest priority to implement a TMS.  In this case, Visigistics has several options that we can utilize to provide this capability.  If interested, we would be glad to talk about a managed transportation service to provide this value to your business that will impact your bottom line without disrupting your business. By leveraging data and technology, Visigistics enables businesses to access an all-inclusive TMS system that empowers them to make informed decisions about the most appropriate shipping method for their unique requirements. Reach out to us today, and let us guide you on how our TMS solutions can make the shipping process easier and more efficient for your business.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

What are the specifications for Less Than Truckload (LTL) freight transport?

Less Than Truckload (LTL) freight transport typically involves shipping 1 to 3 non-stackable pallets or up to 6 stackable pallets of standard sizes. These standard pallet sizes are usually around 48 inches in length, 40 inches in width, and 48 inches in height. Additionally, the total weight of the load for LTL shipping should generally be around 10,000 pounds, equivalent to approximately 4.5 tons.  Shipments over 7 pallets can also be shipped via LTL but typically require a volume quote.

What is the difference between FTL, Partial truckload, and LTL freight shipping?

FTL, Partial truckload (PTL), and LTL are three common types of freight shipping services distinguished by the size and nature of the cargo being transported. Full truckload (FTL) shipping is typically suited for large and heavy loads that occupy an entire trailer or the majority of its space, making it an efficient choice for shipping bulk items or when time is of the essence. Partial truckload (PTL) shipping is recommended when the cargo occupies less than 30 linear feet of the trailer, making it a cost-effective option for shipments that are larger than LTL but don't require an entire truck. Lastly, Less than Truckload (LTL) shipping is the preferred method for smaller loads that do not require a full trailer, as it allows multiple shippers to share space on the same truck, thereby reducing costs for individual shipments. Each option offers specific advantages based on the size and volume of the freight being transported, providing flexibility and cost-efficiency for various shipping needs.

What are the characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages of FTL, Partial Truckload, and LTL freight shipping services?

When examining freight shipping services such as Full Truckload (FTL), Partial Truckload, and Less than Truckload (LTL), it is crucial to understand their unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Each service caters to specific shipping requirements and demands distinct considerations.

Full Truckload (FTL) services involve the transportation of goods that fill an entire truck, offering a high level of security and minimal handling since the shipment remains on the same truck throughout the journey. This option is ideal for transporting large quantities of goods over long distances efficiently. However, the main disadvantage of FTL is the higher cost associated with booking an entire truck, making it less economical for smaller shipments.

Partial Truckload services fall between FTL and LTL, offering a cost-effective solution for shipments that are larger than LTL but do not require an entire truck. This option provides a balance between cost-efficiency and faster transit times compared to LTL. One key advantage of Partial Truckload is the reduced risk of damage or loss compared to LTL shipments, as the goods are typically handled less during the transportation process.

Less than Truckload (LTL) services are designed for smaller shipments that do not require a full truck. LTL is often more cost-effective for businesses shipping smaller quantities, as they only pay for the space their goods occupy on the truck. However, the main disadvantage of LTL is the increased risk of damage or misplacement due to multiple stops and handling throughout the delivery process.

In terms of characteristics, FTL offers maximum security and efficiency for large shipments but at a higher cost, while Partial Truckload strikes a balance between cost and transit time, and LTL caters to smaller shipments with cost-effectiveness in mind. Understanding these distinctions can help companies make informed decisions based on their specific freight transportation needs, whether it be maximizing cost savings, ensuring faster delivery times, or prioritizing the safety of goods during transit.

What is the maximum capacity of the Full Truckload, Partial Truckload, and Less than Truckload services?

The Full Truckload service is suitable for large and heavy loads that occupy all or most of the trailer. If less than 30 linear feet of the trailer will be occupied, the Partial Truckload service is the most cost-effective option. For smaller loads, the best choice is the Less than Truckload service. These distinctions help determine the maximum capacity for each type of service: Full Truckload for large and heavy loads, Partial Truckload for loads occupying less than 30 linear feet, and Less than Truckload for smaller shipments. Contact Visigistics today if you need more information.




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