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Understanding LTL vs FTL Freight in Logistics


Freight shipping can be challenging, mainly due to the plethora of available options, from transportation mode to warehousing, freight consolidation, and the like. Yet, it is crucial to fully understand and comprehend these shipping options, no matter how similar or complicated they may seem.

Less than truckload and full truckload are two of the most widely used services in freight shipping. And they both offer contrasting outcomes based on several factors and requirements, making the selection process between LTL and FTL very important. For businesses seeking to engage in freight shipping services, we highlight the differences between LTL and FTL shipments to help you decide which method works best for you.

What Is Less Than Truckload (LTL)

Less than truckload is a type of inland shipping method where several shipments from different customers are consolidated into one truck because each can only fill part of the truckload of space. The LTL method reduces the cost for businesses transporting small shipments that only need part of the truck container space.

The freight of different customers is consolidated and transported together, with the cost of transportation shared among each customer. The less-than-truckload shipping method is ideal for businesses with freight shipments of less than 15,000 pounds, as it allows for more flexibility and cost savings compared to other freight shipping methods.

Trucking companies that provide less-than-truckload shipping services protect each item while in transit by consolidating goods into large, crated, or palletized packages. Preparing the shipment limits the risk of handling damage during transfer to multiple trailers before reaching the final destination.

What Is Full Truckload (FTL)

The full truckload shipping method is used when a single customer’scustomer’s freight fills an entire truck. This means the trailer is dedicated to transporting one customer’s goods, and there is no freight consolidation with other shipments. In contrast to the less-than-truckload, FTL shipping is an ideal option for businesses with large loads that do not want to share truck space, typically for shipments weighing over 15,000 pounds. Shippers could also use full truckload shipping when;

  • There have enough goods to fill an entire truck
  • The customer prefers a dedicated truck
  • The freight is time sensitive
  • The freight weight makes it more cost-effective than other options.

Businesses that opt for full truckload shipping have better control over different aspects of the delivery process. Delivery time estimates are also fast and accurate since shipment does not have to be consolidated or transferred between trucks. However, this control comes at a higher cost, as the business has to bear the cost of the entire truck.


To better understand both shipping methods and when each works best, we highlight their differences based on speed, size, cost, and the risks involved.

●     Speed

FTL shipping is often faster than LTL shipping because FTL shipping dedicates an entire truck to transporting a single customer’scustomer’s freight. LTL shipping consolidates multiple shipments from different customers into one truck; as such, the consolidation process and freight transfer between trucks can result in delays and take longer for the cargo to reach its destination than FTL shipping.

However, shippers should also note that several factors can impact the speed of delivery, such as distance, route, and availability of trucks. In some cases, LTL may be faster than FTL; however, these are rare cases, with FTL shipping offering a quicker delivery most times.

●     Size

Another consideration to make when shipping freight is the shipment’s volume. As the name suggests, FTL and LTL indicate the size of the cargo transported, with LTL generally indicating small loads ranging from 100 to 5,000 pounds. FTL shipments tend to be more significant and feel most, if not all, of an entire truck, with these shipments weighing about 20,000 pounds or more.

Depending on other factors, businesses whose load range from 5,000 to 10,000 can opt for either a less-than or full truckload. In this case, LTL shipments are referred to as volume LTL shipments, while FTL shipments in this weight range are called partial TL shipments.

●     Cost

Despite the weight of your cargo, the cost for a full truckload remains the same. The rate of FTL may also increase under specific scenarios like if freight is out of gauge, requires special handling, or is overweight. All in all, the full truckload shipping method is a lot more expensive.

Since LTL shipments are smaller and allow for consolidation with other freight, they are cheaper. Customers only get to pay for space rather than the entire truck, which significantly reduces the cost. Deciding between FTL or LTL is vital, as a wrong decision can have severe financial implications.

●     Risks

The risks of loss, delay, or damage are always present during freight transportation. However, businesses can better mitigate some of these risks by opting for either FTL or LTL shipping. When shipping with FTL, there is a reduced risk of freight damage as goods are not handled so much. As for LTL shipping, the freight goes through several terminals before the final destination, and they are usually unloaded and loaded at each terminal point. Multiple stops increase the risk of handling damages, theft, or mismanagement.

Deciding Between LTL and FTL

Less-than-truckload and full-truckload methods are effective shipping solutions for businesses looking to transport their freight inland. However, they each work best based on specific requirements, and companies should always consider several factors before deciding on any of these options. Here are some factors to consider.

●     Quantity of Goods

The size of your freight is the first factor to consider before deciding on LTL or FTL shipping. For businesses with large and fragile shipments, FTL may be the best option, as it allows for the shipment to fill the entire truck. On the other hand, LTL would be the best option for businesses with smaller loads, as they can share the truck space and cost with other customers.

●     Speed

As we have seen from the differences between both shipping methods, FTL offers faster freight transportation than LTL due to a lack of consolidation. Hence, FTL may be the best option if speed is the utmost priority or for businesses handling time-sensitive goods.

●     Cost

The shipping cost with FTL is significantly higher than LTL, as the customer has to bear the entire truck’struck’s cost. Before making any decision, you should consider the costs and their financial implications for your business. If cost is a concern, opt for the more cost-effective LTL shipping.

●     Flexibility

Less-than-truckload shipping offers more flexibility regarding shipment size and schedule. Businesses can easily consolidate their goods in one truck rather than dedicating an entire truck to transport a customer’s goods. This allows for a wide range of shipment sizes and more flexible scheduling options. Hence, LTL shipping may be best for businesses that require greater scheduling flexibility.

●     Control

Another requirement to consider before choosing a shipping option is control. Some businesses require more power regarding delivery and handling compared to other businesses, and in this case, the best option is FTL shipping. FTL shipping offers a more streamlined and controlled delivery process, making it ideal for businesses requiring more significant control over their goods’ transportation.

Businesses should always weigh these factors and determine which would be ideal for their specific needs, operations, and requirements before deciding between LTL or FTL shipping.


No one can conclusively say one shipping method is better than the other. Each technique offers a unique and effective solution depending on the shipper’sshipper’s requirements. Choosing the most efficient option between LTL and FTL will depend on the specific characteristics of the freight you wish to transport and your shipping requirements.

Whether you consolidate your goods or get a dedicated truck, both options can optimize your supply chain when implemented correctly.


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