Understanding Partial Truckload and Volume LTL Will Make You More Competitive

09/20/2017 — Jerry Spelic

It’s sort of like the “Twilight Zone” of freight: the murky gray area between less-than-truckload (LTL) and full truckload shipping. Many shippers only use either LTL or full truckload, but sometimes a load is bigger than LTL but not as large as a full truckload. When this happens, you can ship your freight partial truckload or volume LTL.

Do you know the difference between partial truckload and volume LTL shipping? Or when you should use these services? Understanding partial truckload and volume LTL shipping and when to use each will make you a smarter, more competitive shipper.

In the LTL world, these in-between shipments are called volume LTL, and in the truckload world they are called partials (for partial truckload). For many shippers, the choice between services depends on transit time, rate and service level required.

First of all, let’s define the services and explain the difference between partial truckload and volume LTL shipping.

Partial truckload
Shipments that are larger than LTL but less than a full truck trailer are considered partial truckload. Partial truckload shipments usually range from 8 to 18 pallets, 8,000 to 27,500 pounds, and occupy more than 12 feet of linear space in a trailer.

Volume LTL
Large shipments that do not require a full truck trailer and that are typically 6 or more pallets, weigh over 5,000 pounds, or occupy more than 12 linear feet in a trailer can be considered volume LTL.

Clear as mud, right? The reality is that in many cases partial truckload and volume LTL freight is the exact same thing, but the differences are in its pricing, classing, transit time and handling.

The main differences between partial truckload and volume LTL shipments:

  • Partial truckload shipments do not require a freight class; volume LTL shipments do
  • Partial truckload rates are established by the market and are determined by mileage, specific lane, weight and space required; volume LTL quotes are obtained from an LTL carrier and are based on a carrier’s published LTL rates
  • Partial truckload carriers usually do not stop at hubs or terminals, leading to a higher percentage of on-time deliveries, less handling of freight and less damage
  • Partial truckload carriers typically offer freight insurance, which is often greater than the freight liability LTL carriers offer
  • Volume freight must be crated or on pallets in order to move through an LTL carrier’s system; truckload freight does have the same requirement

To illustrate the potential difference between partial truckload and volume LTL pricing, we priced out a sample shipment.

The freight:

  • 8 pallets, 48”x40”x96”
  • 12,530 lbs.
  • Non-hazardous, non-flammable petroleum oil in plastic bottles (Class 65)
  • Ship from: Macedonia, OH 44056
  • Ship to: Laredo, TX 78040


Volume LTL cost - $1,593.00

Partial truckload cost - $1,195.00

LTL networks are generally optimized for shipments less than 12 linear feet and one to six pallets, and because this shipment example falls outside of those parameters, the volume freight cost is higher than the partial truckload cost.

Some helpful partial truckload shipping tips:

  • Shippers must be more flexible on the pickup and/or delivery dates than for LTL shipments
  • Loads traveling less than 250 miles are usually not good candidates for partials
  • Floor-loaded or loose items are not ideal for partials
  • Partial truckload shipping rates are contingent on available capacity, lanes and distance
  • If pickup or delivery appointments are required, there is a high probability that appointments will be missed and layover fees may apply due to the variables involved with partials

Partial truckload services aren’t offered by every carrier but a freight broker like PartnerShip can help you find partial truckload or volume LTL capacity. We work with a large network of LTL and truckload freight carriers and will find you the best rate and service level for your needs. Contact our shipping experts at 800-599-2902 or email sales@PartnerShip.com whenever you need to ship smarter.

Get a free quote on your next LTL freight shipment or truckload freight shipment!

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