What’s the Difference Between LTL vs FTL Shipping

Less-than-truckload (LTL) and full-truckload (FTL) shipping are key cogs in virtually every business’s supply chain. While both are useful, it’s important to understand the differences between LTL and FTL shipping. Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between LTL and FTL shipping. 

What Is Less-Than-Truckload Shipping? 

Less-Than-Truckload freight shipping is used for moving smaller cargo that doesn’t require a whole trailer or truck. When using LTL shipping services, you’ll only pay for the portion of the truck or trailer your freight occupies.

The remaining space in the truck is footed by other shippers’ LTL shipment that fills the space. In most instances, LTL shipping is a cost-effective way to move larger freight that doesn’t take up the entire space of the trailer. 

What Is Full-Truckload Freight Transportation?

In contrast, full-truckload freight transportation is when your cargo does occupy the entire space of the trailer. While FTL shipping may be more expensive at face value, it’s more economical for a larger FTL shipment that does fill the entire trailer space. In addition, FTL shipping offers a range of desirable benefits that prompt business owners to opt for this method:

  • FTL has fewer weight and size restrictions compared to less-than-truckload shipping. 
  • FTL shipments will usually arrive at their destination faster due to the truck carrying a dedicated load. With a FTL shipment, there are no other drop-offs or pickups along the journey.
  • With FTL shipping, your freight may have fewer chances of being damaged during transportation because there are no stops or truck changes. 
  • FTL shipping in New York and New Jersey may be preferred for heavier loads or more valuable loads. 

When Should I Use FTL vs LTL?

When deciding between LTL and FTL, there are several factors that should be considered. And you will need to determine what’s right for your business needs and freight.

For the most part, there are no hard-and-fast rules for determining whether you should use FTL or LTL. However, the team at On Track Freight Systems does offer a few general guidelines. 

LTL Freight Shipping Should Be Used When…

  • You are looking to save money
  • Your cargo is sturdy enough and/or properly packaged for increased handling
  • You are shipping 12 pallets or less
  • You have a bit more flexibility with delivery timing and shipping

FTL Shipping Should Be Used When…

  • You are working against extremely tight timelines and a tight delivery date
  • You are shipping more than 12 pallets at a single time
  • Your cargo is extremely delicate or fragile
  • Your shipment requires firm delivery appointments and pickup times

What’s the Difference Between Less-Than-Truckload and Full-Truckload

When shipping LTL, the core value exists around cost savings. When you’re only shipping a few pallets, LTL freight shipping will be more cost-efficient in most instances. Because of this, LTL carriers are required to maintain operational efficiency at all times.

Non-standard services, empty miles, delays, and underutilized trailer space can have a significant impact on LTL carriers compared to FTL carriers. And this sentiment creates the key variances between LTL and FTL freight shipment. Now that’s cleared up, let’s look more closely at LTL vs FTL. 

Freight Class Concerns

With LTL trucking companies, freight class is paramount. Even in the same lane with the same number of pallets, your LTL rate quote can vary for different commodities. And this is based on freight class, which can range from the most expensive Class 500 to the least expensive Class 50.

On the other hand, FTL carriers are not overly concerned with commodity specifications. Simply answering whether the product is hazmat, palletized, and legal weight is typically enough to generate an accurate FTL freight quote. 

Handling Concerns for Full and Less-Than-Truckload Shipments

When you ship LTL, you can expect your shipment to be potentially unloaded and loaded with multiple shippers’ freight several times prior to delivery. On the other hand, FTL shipments are loaded and delivered straight to the destination.

While most LTL shipments arrive at the destination in perfect condition, shippers who are concerned about handling exposure may want to consider the FTL shipping method. 

Your Less-Than-Truckload Shipment Could Be Reweighed

For the most part, after your full truckload shipment is loaded, the driver may stop at a weigh station to ensure the load is under the legal limit. Outside of that, there will rarely be additional inspection until it reaches its final destination and the seal is broken at the delivery dock.

On the other hand, most LTL carriers will inspect the product after it arrives at the origin terminal. The shipment may go through a machine that automatically takes its weight and dimensions.

If your product specifications vary from the bill of lading, your entire shipment will need to be reclassified. And this can lead to additional rates and charges. Learn more about costly shipping mistakes and how you can avoid them.

LTL Shipping Modes May Have Accessorial Charges

When you choose FTL shipping, your cargo will have the full attention of the driver from start to finish. In contrast, you are only paying for part of the trailer with LTL because other shipments occupy the same truck or trailer.

And your cargo may be spread across multiple warehouses and drivers. Because LTL carriers must maintain excellent operational efficiency to provide low shipping rates, anything that can disrupt or delay delivery will result in extra charges or accessorial charges

Pick-Up Window Differences

When you ship a full truckload, you can expect hard, firm appointment pickup times. With LTL shipments drivers are most likely making multiple deliveries and pickup per run. Because of this, it’s imperative for you to be flexible. 

Contact On Track Freight Systems for FTL and LTL Trucking Solutions

Choosing the best mode to ship your cargo and freight can be challenging. Fortunately, On Track Freight Systems will be with you every step of the way. At On Track Freight Systems, we are the leading FTL and LTL carrier for the entire New York and New Jersey Metro area.

We offer affordable next-day FTL and LTL cargo transportation solutions throughout the area. And when your needs go beyond the metro area, we offer a coast-to-coast nationwide footprint with tailored solutions. 

Contact On Track Freight Systems today for a free rate quote.