LTL vs FTL freight: What is the Difference?

ltl vs ftl

When choosing a freight solution, there are numerous factors to consider. One of the key variables is the choice between LTL (Less Than Truckload) and FTL (Full Truckload) freight. This piece delves into the basics of LTL and FTL freight, their advantages and disadvantages, and which one to select for your shipping requirements.

What are FTL and LTL?

Before diving into the details, let’s clarify what FTL and LTL stand for and how they differ:

  • FTL refers to freight transported via truck and occupies the entire space within a truck trailer. This type of shipping is used for short-haul shipments, as the costs are more affordable than LTL.
  • LTL stands for freight that is transported via truck and/or train. With LTL shipping, multiple shipments from different businesses are consolidated onto a single truck, sharing the available space. This method suits longer distances (up to 1,000 miles) or shipping larger items.

LTL Freight


ltl vs ftl


When you opt for LTL freight, your shipments are palletized and shrink-wrapped, making them easy to handle and transport. You c load the pallets onto a truck yourself or arrange for a courier pick up and deliver them to the destination.

If you require more than one pallet, the cost per item can escalate quickly, especially for shipments across long distances or internationally. LTL freight is often subject to weight restrictions imposed by trucks, typically around 70 pounds per cubic foot.

Benefits of LTL Freight

Choosing LTL freight offers several advantages:

  1. Economical: Since multiple shipments are combined into a single truckload, LTL rates can be lower than shipping each item separately via FTL. This cost savings becomes even more significant when transporting goods over long distances.
  2. Flexibility: LTL shipments provide flexibility regarding container type and truck selection. You can customize your shipments based on specific requirements or the urgency of the delivery (within reasonable constraints). Additionally, you have more options regarding pickup locations and schedules.
  3. Streamlined Process: LTL shipments involve less paperwork compared to FTLs. Furthermore, since everything travels together in one load under a single bill-of-lading number, there is clarity about the ownership of individual pieces within the shipment.

Limitations of LTL Freight

While LTL freight offers numerous benefits, it does have some limitations to consider:

  1. Delivery Time: Due to the nature of consolidated shipments, LTL freight can take longer to reach its destination. Delivery times typically range from 2 to 10 days, which may not be suitable if you require time-sensitive delivery.
  2. Scheduling Restrictions: Unlike FTL shipments, which can be scheduled at any mutually convenient time, LTL shipments must adhere to specific pickup and delivery windows. This can pose challenges if your shipment departs or arrives outside parts or outside these predefined timeframes.
  3. Security Considerations: LTL freight that traverses multiple countries during transit carries higher risks of theft or damage. Crossing international borders multiple times increases the likelihood of incidents occurring. Working with reputable carriers and implementing appropriate security measures to mitigate these risks is crucial.

Choosing LTL Freight


ltl vs ftl


When deciding whether LTL freight is the right choice for your shipment, consider the following factors:

  1. Small Shipments: If you have a small volume of goods to ship, LTL freight is a cost-effective option. Consolidating your shipment with other businesses allows you to pay for only the required space rather than booking an entire truck.
  2. Affordability: If you need to ship many items per month, LTL freight can be more affordable than FTL. The economies of scale achieved through consolidation can significantly reduce shipping costs.
  3. Flexibility and Convenience: LTL freight allows you to customize your shipments and choose suitable pickup and delivery options. This adaptability can be advantageous, especially if you have specific shipment requirements.

In conclusion, understanding the differences between LTL and FTL freight is crucial when selecting the appropriate shipping solution for your business. While LTL freight offers cost savings, flexibility, and streamlined processes, it may not be suitable for time-sensitive deliveries or shipments requiring precise scheduling. 

FTL Freight



ltl vs ftl


The FTL freight method is similar to LTL in that it’s a trucking system, but it’s faster and more expensive. The largest difference is that while LTL shipments are picked up at one location and dropped off at another, FTL involves picking up your goods from your warehouse or facility and dropping them off at another, typically within 24 hours.

This method is typically used for time-sensitive items like flowers or products that need to be delivered overnight or high-value items like electronics or jewelry.

Benefits of FTL Freight

  • Faster: FTL freight has a shorter transit time than LTL. This means you can increase your sales.
  • More cost-effective: FTL is more cost-effective than LTL because it requires less handling, which reduces costs associated with labor, fuel, insurance, and other expenses of moving goods by truck or railcar (for example).
  • More flexible: You can use FTL services to transport just one pallet or thousands–the choice is yours! With an LTL shipment, however, you’re limited by how many items are on each trailer/container at any given time (usually around 5%).
  • Reliable: Because trucks travel shorter distances than trains do (and therefore spend less time sitting still), they tend to be more reliable than railcars when it comes to delivery times–especially if they’re carrying heavier loads over long distances such as between cities rather than just between warehouses within cities themselves like trains do most often nowadays thanks largely due to increased demand among consumers who prefer having their purchases delivered right away rather than waiting weeks before receiving them through traditional methods such as ground transportation options which might take several days depending on factors like weather conditions affecting roadways etcetera…

Limitations of FTL Freight

The biggest limitation of FTL freight is transit time. If you’re shipping a package from Los Angeles to New York City, it will take two days–and sometimes 5 or 6 days–to arrive at its destination. The farther away your package travels, the longer it takes for delivery.

Another limitation is cost: FTL carriers are more expensive than LTL carriers because they require more manpower and equipment (trucks) to transport their cargo. Additionally, there’s an increased risk associated with FTL shipments due to their size; if one vehicle carrying an entire truckload gets into an accident, all those items could be damaged beyond repair or lost entirely!

Choosing FTL Freight


ltl vs ftl


The decision to choose FTL freight is ultimately up to the shipper, but the following are Here’s why you want to go with full truckload shipping:

  • You need more flexibility. If your shipment is time-sensitive, or if there’s any chance that part of your order may be delayed in transit (it happens!), then FTL will give you more control over when it arrives and where it goes.
  • Consolidating multiple products into one shipment can help you save money on transportation costs. Additionally, this method can reduce shipping expenses, especially if the products are bulky or heavy enough to require special equipment for safe transport, such as pallets. Standard parcel carriers may charge extra per pound or cubic foot for such products, consolidating them smartly.
  • You need high-volume shipments–and are okay with paying for them! Full Truckload carriers offer some of the lowest rates around because their vehicles are designed specifically with high-capacity loads in mind; this means fewer stops along each route which translates directly into lower fuel consumption per mile traveled by the driver(s) during the delivery timespan between origin point(s) and final destination(s).

Comparing LTL and FTL Freight

When deciding which type of freight to use, you should determine which type of goods you are shipping. If your shipment includes perishable items such as food or flowers, then it is best to use an FTL service because these products can only remain for a short time if they are somehow damaged. In addition, if your shipment contains hazardous materials like chemicals or explosives (e-cigarettes), ship them via an expedited method, such as air freight, instead of ground transportation services, as LTL trucking companies offer.

Cost Considerations

The cost of LTL and FTL freight is a factor in choosing one. In general, LTL is less expensive than FTL.

Numerous factors can impact the overall expenses for shipping. For example:

  • If you need to ship multiple pallets or boxes simultaneously, parcel shipping may be cheaper than an LTL shipment because it doesn’t require as much labor (you don’t have to load each item onto its pallet).
  • If you need to get your parcel ASAP and don’t mind paying extra for expedited delivery options like air freight or overnight delivery services that offer guaranteed arrival times but are more expensive than standard ground shipping rates.

Handling and Risk

Handling and risk are two of the most important factors when choosing between LTL and FTL freight. Handling transfers goods from one location to another, while risk refers to the possibility of loss or injury during this movement.

When you choose an LTL provider, you’ll be responsible for handling your goods once they arrive at their final destination.

Making the Right Choice


ltl vs ftl


When choosing the most suitable mode of transportation and freight carrier for your needs, it’s crucial to make the right choice. Understanding the key differences between LTL (less-than-truckload) and FTL (full truckload) can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your requirements.

This article explores these two options, evaluates shipment requirements, discusses collaboration with freight partners, and considers hybrid and alternative solutions. By the end, you’ll better grasp how to navigate transportation complexities.

LTL vs. FTL: Exploring the Options

LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) Freight Services

LTL shipping involves transporting less than a full truckload of freight. This allows you to use a single carrier or multiple carriers within a specific area. One significant advantage of LTL is its ability to expedite cargo delivery compared to FTL. With fewer stops and trucks on the road, LTL shipments can reach their destinations faster. However, it’s important to note that LTL shipments typically have multiple stops along their journey, leading to increased costs due to idle time spent at loading docks instead of progressing directly toward final destinations.

FTL (Full Truckload) Freight Services

FTL refers not only to the amount of space being utilized in a truck but also to the involvement of multiple companies or individuals in transporting a single piece or a collection of goods across state lines or international borders. FTL is often a suitable choice for businesses that prioritize speed or need to transport large and heavy shipments.`

Evaluating Shipment Requirements

When assessing your shipment requirements, it’s crucial to consider various factors influencing your choice between LTL and FTL freight services. 

1. Size and Weight of Your Shipment

The size and weight of your shipment play a significant role in determining the optimal mode of transport. If you want to ship large, heavy items such as machinery or equipment (e.g., excavators or bulldozers), FTL freight services are typically better suited since they can accommodate heavier loads than LTL trucks, which have weight limitations (typically around 80,000 pounds).

2. Number of Items Being Shipped

FTL freight services may be the better option if you’re sending multiple items in one shipment, such as a carload. By allowing faster transit times compared to LTL vans, which make multiple stops along their routes, FTL ensures more efficient delivery of your cargo to its final destination.

Collaboration with Freight Partners

To achieve better results and keep costs down, it’s essential to establish a productive and collaborative relationship with your freight partner. This means asking yourself questions like: What specific services do I require? How would I like those services to be provided? Do I need full visibility into every aspect of my supply chain?

Hybrid and Alternative Solutions

In some cases, a hybrid solution that combines elements of both LTL and FTL may be the best fit for your transportation needs. This approach involves shipping items to a central location and distributing them to their final destinations using smaller trucks or air freight.

Additionally, alternative solutions exist for certain scenarios.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)


ltl vs ftl


What is the difference between LTL and FTL freight?

LTL refers to shipping less than a full truckload of freight, allowing for faster delivery times but with more stops along the way. FTL involves filling up an entire truck with goods and offers faster transit times but at potentially higher costs.

What are the benefits and limitations of LTL freight?

LTL freight offers cost savings due to reduced volume size, flexibility in shipping different products, and control over customer expectations for delivery times. However, it comes with higher insurance costs compared to other modes of transportation and may incur extra fees if capacity limits are exceeded.


Selecting the right freight carrier is paramount when shipping goods, whether in large quantities or small amounts. You can determine whether LTL or FTL is the most suitable option by considering factors such as shipment size, weight, and the number of items being shipped. Establishing a collaborative partnership with your freight provider ensures that your requirements are met efficiently and cost-effectively. Contact us if you need assistance or have any inquiries regarding LTL and FTL freight services. 


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