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LTL vs. FTL Freight Shipping: What Is the Difference?

Large semi truck hauling freight on the open highway in the western USA under an evening sky to demonstrate ftl shipping

If your business requires freight carrier services there are multiple options for transporting goods. Among North America, Less Than Truckload (LTL) freight shipping and Full Truckload (FTL) freight shipping are the most common transportation methods. Read on to learn more about the differences between these two shipping methods and how to determine which option is right for your business's shipping needs.


What Is LTL Freight Shipping?

Less than truckload freight (LTL) means shipping relatively small freights from one location to the other. Typically, LTL freight carriers transport small freight shipments for multiple businesses with individual loads sharing space on one semi-trailer. Each client pays a specific amount based on the portion of freight in the semi-trailer's space. This method of transportation is an economical option for businesses because LTL freight provides comprehensive utilization of the LTL shipment carrier's fleet. Further features and benefits of using LTL shipping include:

  1. More service options

  2. Security and tracking

  3. Minimized costs for small companies

  4. Flexible shipping

  5. Minimal environmental impact


What Is FTL Freight Shipping?

Full truckload freight (FTL) means shipping larger freights to a single destination. Typically, FTL freight carriers transport an entire load for one company that occupies the whole semi-trailer. For large shipments destined for one client, an FTL shipping carrier is helpful for businesses needing to transport larger loads to a specific location. Additional features and benefits of FTL freight include:

  1. Security and tracking

  2. Offers faster shipping than LTL

  3. Suitable for high-risk or delicate loads

  4. Ideal for large shipments

  5. Cost-effective for larger shipments


What Is the Difference Between LTL And FTL Freight Shipping?

LTL and FTL freight shipping are among the most common forms of transportation for businesses. However, knowing the differences between each form will help determine which shipping method will best support your business. The major differences between FTL and LTL freight shipping are:


1. Size

When shipping freight, size is the most critical factor that determines which transportation method to use. LTL shipments are best for smaller loads that weigh up to 5,000 lbs. FTL shipments are best for loads weighing 20,000 lbs. or more. In some cases, shipments weighing between 5,000 and 10,000 lbs. can be considered LTL or FTL freight. If the weight of your freight is in the gray area of 5,000-10,000 lbs. consider the following factors when determining which method to choose.


2. Cost

The LTL freight shipping option tends to be cheaper since you only pay for a portion of occupied space on a semi-trailer. Differently, FTL freight can be more costly since the load will occupy a significant portion of space, or the entirety, of the semi-trailer. To mitigate cost, consider whether your load is large enough to garner the FTL freight shipping option or if it would more economical for your business to share space with other loads on a semi-trailer.


3. Time

After considering space and cost, another key variable when determining which option to use is time. Some businesses may require swift shipping of specific goods, but find it difficult to choose between FTL and LTL freight shipping. If your business involves swift and fast shipping, FTL tends to be the best option even the load is smaller because the freight will be moved directly to the customer. LTL freight shipping means multiple stops to unload smaller loads to different destinations. This method requires more time and has a higher potential for shipping delays.


4. Handling

Once you know the size of the shipment and time expectations from your customer, the next important factor to consider is handling. For delicate or high-risk freight, FTL shipment is an ideal transportation method, especially when a business requires fast pickups and deliveries. FTL shipping limits the risk of damage or loss of items because loads remain on the semi-trailer until unloaded at the client's destination. LTL shipping is riskier for delicate or high risk freight because the goods may be transferred onto different trailers multiple times before reaching its destination.


LTL Vs. FTL: How to Decide Which Method is Best for You

Consider several factors to choose the best freight shipping method for your load and business needs. Space, time, cost, and handling are key determining factors when choosing between FTL or LTL freight shipping.


Consider these examples...

  • You need to ship more than 12 pallets of a fragile product and timely pickup and delivery is preferred. In this case, FTL freight shipping would be ideal.

  • You need to ship 12 pallets or less of a durable product with a flexible delivery time and you are looking to reduce transportation costs. In this case, LTL freight shipping would be a helpful choice.


Choosing an appropriate shipping method is essential for businesses looking to save space, time and money. At Veltri Logistics, we can help you get more insights into FTL and LTL freight shipping methods. Contact us today to learn more!

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