LTL vs FTL Freight Shipping: Everything You Need to Know

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What are FTL and LTL Freight Shipping?

The process of transporting goods or commodities from one place to another is an immensely important part of keeping business moving around the world. Whether you’re planning to send a large shipment across the country or a smaller order to your customer down the street, understanding how different types of shipments work can help ensure your goods reach their destination quickly and safely.

If you’re wondering about the differences between “less than truckload” (LTL) and “full truckload” (FTL) freight shipping, we’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ll explain what LTL and FTL shipments are, take a look at their advantages and distinctions, and provide optimized options to work with your shipments. Read on for more information about these two modes of transportation and learn which one is best suited for your business.

What is LTL Shipping?

LTL shipping, also known as “less than truckload” shipping, is a way for small businesses to ship their products without investing in the cost of a full-service trucking company. It removes the need for expensive long-haul freight services, allowing you to use smaller carriers. This type of shipment consists of multiple small shipments combined into one “truckload,” therefore reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

The rate of the shipment is determined by the shipment’s weight, size, shape, and classification, as well as delivery time requirements. It’s an ideal option for smaller businesses or small shipments that gets the job done while keeping costs low and efficiency high.

Advantages of LTL Shipping

LTL shipping offers many advantages for businesses transporting freight, some of which aren’t immediately obvious. While you may be considering a range of options for a small shipment, including parcel shipping, LTL shipping, and FTL shipping, LTL has quite a few great qualities to boast about. Some of the advantages of LTL shipping include the following:

  • Cost savings – LTL shipping is generally less expensive than FTL shipping, as the cost is spread out over multiple shippers sharing the same truck. This makes it a cost-effective option for businesses that need to transport smaller shipments on a regular basis.
  • Increased consistency and reliability – LTL shipping provides greater consistency and reliability than parcel shipping, as LTL carriers specialize in freight and have dedicated networks for shipping. This means that LTL carriers are less likely to experience delays or disruptions in transit vs parcel shipping, resulting in faster and more reliable delivery times.
  • Reduced risk of damage – LTL shipments are typically handled less frequently than parcel shipments, resulting in a reduced risk of damage during transit. Additionally, LTL carriers use specialized equipment and packaging to protect freight during shipping, further reducing the risk of damage.
  • Shipment tracking and visibility – LTL carriers provide detailed tracking and visibility throughout the shipping process, allowing businesses to monitor the status of their shipment in real-time. This provides greater transparency and helps to ensure that the shipment arrives on time and in good condition.

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What is FTL Shipping?

Full truckload shipping, or FTL shipping, is when a full truckload of goods from a single sender is moved from one point to another in one go, usually at cost-efficient rates. FTL shipping can be used to transport large and heavy items, as well as bulk substances like food and raw materials. Many times, this type of shipping requires the use of a special oversized or overweight vehicle due to the size and weight of the freight. FTL shipping has become increasingly popular among businesses that need larger shipments on a time-sensitive basis, as it’s more cost-efficient and reliable for them than other options.

Advantages of FTL Shipping

Larger businesses or those with a tight delivery deadline, such as large ecommerce brands, manufacturing companies, and logistics centers, are opting for FTL shipping. Some of the advantages of FTL shipping include:

  • Large inventory capacity – FTL shipping is ideal for businesses transporting large amounts of inventory. This method involves filling an entire truck with the shipment, resulting in fewer trips and increased efficiency.
  • Cost-effective – FTL shipping is usually more expensive than LTL, but it can be cost-effective for businesses with larger shipments. By combining their shipment into one truckload, businesses can decrease the cost per unit of shipping.
  • Fast and secure shipping – Businesses transporting larger or more valuable items often find FTL shipping to be a great choice. FTL shipping is faster and more secure than other options, since it includes a dedicated driver and truck, making damage, delays or theft during transit less likely.
  • Direct transport – FTL shipments go directly from the pickup location to the delivery location without any stops in between, making it a more efficient option for businesses with time-sensitive shipments. This is also great news for modern consumers who expect lightning-fast shipping for everything they buy.

What is Freight Class?

Freight class is a numeric code that identifies the shipping and storage needs of your shipment, typically determined by its weight, density, value, and packaging. Knowing your freight class helps the carrier determine which method of delivery to offer for your shipping needs. Freight carriers work on this basis to ensure efficient distribution and help provide lower costs to merchants. If your freight class is accurately identified and assigned, it can help speed up processing times while maintaining a high quality of service.

What are the Differences between LTL and FTL?

When it comes to freight shipping, you have two major options – LTL shipping and FTL shipping. Although both services involve a truck carrying goods from point A to point B, there are quite a few differences between them. Deciding which option is most suitable for your business depends on several factors, such as the size of your shipments, the urgency of delivery, budget constraints, and more. Understanding the main differences between LTL and FTL shipping will help you make the right choice when deciding how to send your merchandise.

LTL vs FTL Shipping Cost Comparisons

LTL shipping is more economical for small shipments than FTL, as the cost of using a truck is distributed among multiple shippers. Conversely, FTL entails the entire use of a truck and therefore costs more, which may actually be a cost-saving option for larger businesses that have large loads to send frequently. This cost difference will be most obvious to smaller businesses or low-volume businesses that may not have many items to ship or may not ship as frequently, making choosing the correct type of freight even more important.

LTL vs FTL Shipping Weight Capacity Differences

LTL shipments are usually smaller than FTL shipments, with a weight capacity of between 150 and 15,000 pounds. In comparison, FTL shipments can weigh up to 45,000 pounds or more. To make the best shipping choice, businesses with smaller shipments should consider LTL, and those with larger shipments or denser, heavier products should go for FTL.

LTL vs FTL Shipping Timeline Comparison

Transit time is another key factor to consider when choosing between LTL and FTL shipping. LTL shipments tend to take longer to arrive at their destination than FTL shipments because they require additional stops and handling. This is because LTL shipments need to be consolidated with other shipments to fill a truck. FTL shipments go directly from the pickup location to the delivery location without any stops in between. Therefore, businesses with time-sensitive shipments may prefer FTL shipping.

LTL vs FTL Shipping Handling and Preparation Comparison

Although LTL shipments typically require less handling than parcel shipments, LTL shipments also involve more handling than FTL shipments, increasing the risk of damage. FTL shipments are typically loaded and unloaded using specialized equipment, decreasing the risk of damage when compared to LTL.

How to Optimize Your Options: LTL vs FTL

To determine the best shipping option, consider factors such as shipment size, transit time requirements, and budget. LTL shipping is a good choice for smaller shipments that do not require a full truck. FTL shipping is better suited for high-volume businesses, larger shipments, high-value products, or those requiring special handling.

How to Work with a 3PL for LTL and FTL Shipments

Prior to working with a 3PL provider for LTL and FTL shipments, it’s important to understand their operating style. Generally, they don’t own trucks and instead collaborate with carriers in providing shipping services. Some 3PL providers, however, do have their own trucks and other assets, which creates extra flexibility in the shipping process. The role of a 3PL is to make sure that goods get from you to storage and then to your customer, or directly from you to your customer, as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible. By taking advantage of their expertise, resources, and industry connections, a 3PL provider can help optimize your shipping options and reduce costs along the way.

The main way that 3PL companies help with LTL and FTL shipping is by letting you tap into their existing agreement with their preferred carriers. By passing LTL and FTL shipments through a single carrier, they can earn significant discounts on shipping and freight rates – well in excess of what you might do with your own company’s internal shipping volume. 3PLs can then pass some or all of this discount to your company. However, it is important to note that they generally don’t pass all of the discount, so they can make a profit off of the freight as well.

Find the Perfect Warehousing and Shipping Solutions for You Today

No matter how large or small your business, or how much freight you have to ship (including international freight forwarding), Warehousing and Fulfillment can help you find the perfect fit. From storage and warehousing to pick and pack to shipping and freight, we’ve got the inside track on the very best services for your business in every area of the country. Get in touch with us to start finding the right LTL and FTL shipping solutions for your business today!

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