LTL vs FTL: When Should You Use Either One?

When it comes to shipping by ground freight, LTL and FTL make up a majority of the available options. LTL, or Less Than Truckload, is often compared with FTL, or Full Truckload. Understanding how freight shipments are shipped via ground is important for all shippers.

Where LTL shipping may be too large to be considered a small package, they do not completely fill a full truck. Since full truckloads are usually 24 pallets or 42,500 pounds, it may be tough and costly for shippers to consider this for their small shipment.

Hence, one of the common questions that are asked is, “When should you use either one?”

 

Why Small to Mid-Sized Shippers Should Not Use Full Truckload

LTL vs FTL can become very complicated. Full truckload allows carriers to transport a specific type of cargo, such as those in need of control refrigeration or backhauls. However, what about the small to mid-sized shippers who do not have enough freight to fill a full truckload? The costs would be much higher for them especially if they do not need all the space.

 

Introduction of Consolidation Allows for Better Use of Full Truckload

Less Than Truckload, also known as partial truckload, is used when shippers cannot meet a full shipment. However, when multiple shippers come together to fill an entire bed it is called consolidation. Freight consolidation combines both parcel and LTL shipments to save time and money. This is extremely useful when shipments are headed to the same destination. Drivers can secure a backhaul load headed to a high-volume destination allowing shippers to use freight consolidation to manage their spend better.

ground freight consolidation

Utilizing a consolidation program can help save money in certain aspects, including not having to pay for a full truck when it is not needed and backhaul deliveries.

Freight consolidation requires technology deployed in a transportation management system (TMS) to combine information from all participating shippers. However, there will be times where retailers must still be aware of who the other shippers they are joining forces with. Avoiding partnerships with their direct competitors is extremely important for companies to strive. Working with an external entity solves this problem and is one of the many reasons why freight consolidation programs involve a third-party logistics provider (3PL).

 

A Combination of Both LTL and FTL is Essential

When it comes to LTL vs FTL, it is important for shippers to consider both. This can reduce risks by opting for a mode with the fewest stops and touch points. Cargo traveling by full truckload are generally less likely to be damaged, so buying cargo insurance may be less costly than limited liability for LTL.

While LTL is important to save costs, full truckload shipments will normally require less fuel due to their continuous journey. In LTL shipping, a delivery truck may stop over 100+ times before getting to a shipper’s final destination. This inherently will increase fuel costs and can be one of the few costs that shippers do not think about. As a result, fuel costs for full truckload shipping can be much cheaper – although this is dependant on the local, regional and domestic differences in gas prices.

full truckload shipping

Using both shipping method has its benefits and it is important to understand when shipments require either LTL or FTL.

Understanding The Use of Both LTL vs FTL is Important

Knowing when to use LTL vs FTL is important to increase productivity, decrease spend and streamlines the shipping process. Before committing to one method, shippers should create a plan and lay out the potential costs versus savings from an LTL vs FTL standpoint. Outsourcing freight management to a 3PL can help lots to provide service to find the best mode for shippers.

To learn more about ground freight shipping, visit our page on ground freight transportation.

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