LTL vs. Truckload Freight. What’s the Difference?
07/12/2023 — PartnerShip
Less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload freight shipping may appear to be similar but they are two very different shipping services. Many shippers exclusively use one or the other, but they can be used together. To help you ship smarter, here are the four main differences between LTL and truckload shipping and rates.
Transit time and handling
LTL: LTL shipping combines shipments from multiple customers so your freight isn’t the only freight on the truck; it shares space (and cost) with other company’s freight and will make multiple stops at terminals between the shipper and consignee. For example, the freight you are shipping from Cleveland to Houston may make stops in Indianapolis, Nashville and Dallas before reaching its final destination. At each stop, your freight is unloaded and reloaded and must wait for the next truck, increasing transit time and handling, and the possibility of damage.
Truckload: When you ship full truckload, your freight is the only thing on the truck. The carrier will make a pickup at the origin and drive straight to the destination. Aside from driver rest breaks, fuel and equipment issues, the truck doesn't stop, resulting in much faster transit times. In addition, your freight never leaves the truck, resulting in much less handling and fewer opportunities to be damaged.
Weight and shipment size
LTL: Less-than-truckload shipments are typically between one and six pallets and weight from 200 to 5,000 pounds. LTL freight usually takes up less then 12 linear feet of the trailer, and since the typical pallet measures 40” x 48”, 6 pallets arranged side-by-side would take up exactly 12’ of linear space on each side of the trailer.
Truckload: A full truckload shipment can range from 24 to 30 pallets and up. With truckload freight, the space your shipment takes up in the trailer has more of an impact than weight, so truckload shipments commonly range from 5,000 pounds to 45,000 pounds and up.
LTL: The most significant difference between LTL and truckload shipping is the pricing. LTL freight pricing is regulated by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) which is a nonprofit membership organization made up primarily of interstate motor carriers. It classifies all freight based on its commodity, density, and ease of transport. LTL carriers each have standard LTL rates which are determined by your origin and destination, your freight’s NMFC class, the amount of space it occupies on the truck, and any accessorials you require. All of these variables are factored into the LTL rate you pay.
Truckload: Truckload freight pricing is completely dependent upon the market. With no pre-established rates, truckload freight negotiations happen as needed over the phone or through email. Truckload rates fluctuate, sometimes by the week, day or even by the hour. Factors that drive pricing include the origin and destination, weight of the shipment, seasons (such as harvest season or even back-to-school season), truck capacity and location, the shipping lane or route, and fuel and operating costs. Typically, there are no contracts with truckload carriers, which can vary from an owner/operator with one truck to huge truckload shipping companies with thousands of trucks in their fleet.
LTL: Refrigerated LTL shipments are a bit more difficult to find and secure than dry van LTL shipments. Most reefer LTL carriers have schedules that are determined by lanes and temperatures. As an example, an LTL reefer carrier might pick up in southern California on Wednesday and may run at 45 degrees with a set delivery route and schedule. This can make finding an available reefer LTL carrier difficult, especially for one-off shipments or on short notice.
Truckload: Reefer trailers are common and readily available. Reefer trailers can range from below zero to seventy degrees, and since only your freight is on the trailer, the shipment can move on whatever schedule and temperature you need it to. Aside from the temperature control and being a bit more expensive, refrigerated truckload shipments aren’t much different from dry truckload shipments.
PartnerShip is an expert at providing you the best rates on both LTL and truckload freight shipping so you can stay competitive. Contact our shipping experts whenever you need to ship smarter.
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