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What is LTL Freight? A Helpful Guide

Updated: Feb 22

Let's get right into it.

So What is LTL Freight?

LTL Freight is Less Than Truckload (LTL) freight. LTL shipping allows multiple shippers to share space on the same truck. Each shipper pays only for the portion of the trailer their freight occupies, while the rest of the cost is covered by other parties’ goods on the same shipment.

This method is ideal for businesses that need to ship smaller quantities of freight or those whose cargo ranges from 150 to 15,000 pounds.

This shipping method is a cornerstone for businesses of all sizes, offering a cost-effective and flexible solution for transporting goods.

LTL fills the gap between parcel shipments and full truckload (FTL) shipments, designed for freight that doesn’t require the use of an entire trailer.

The Benefits of LTL Shipping and Trucking

  • Cost Efficiency: By sharing the transportation costs with other shippers, you can save significantly compared to booking a whole trailer for a small amount of cargo.

  • Flexibility: LTL offers more flexibility in shipment size and frequency. Businesses can ship goods as needed without waiting to fill an entire truck, making inventory management more efficient.

  • Services: LTL carriers often provide additional services, including inside pickup and delivery, liftgate service, and notification options, which are not typically available with FTL shipments.

Breakdown of the benefits of LTL shipping and their benefits score.

How Does LTL Work?

When you choose LTL shipping, your freight is loaded onto a truck along with other shipments.

It may be transferred across multiple trucks and through various distribution centers before reaching its final destination.

This process, known as hub and spoke, allows for the efficient consolidation and distribution of shipments, optimizing routes, and reducing shipping costs.

Challenges of LTL Shipping

While Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping presents numerous advantages for businesses, it also comes with its set of challenges:

  • Risk of Damage or Loss: Due to frequent handling and transfers, there's an increased risk of freight damage or loss, necessitating robust packaging and clear handling instructions.

  • Complex Delivery Times: The variable nature of LTL routes, including multiple stops and truck transfers, makes predicting delivery times challenging, complicating inventory management.

  • Variable Shipping Costs: Calculating LTL shipping costs can be complex, as rates are influenced by factors like freight class, weight, and shipping distance.

Chart breakdown of the challenges of LTL shipping and their challenge score.

Navigating these challenges requires a comprehensive understanding of LTL logistics, meticulous planning, and sometimes, a degree of patience to ensure successful freight shipping.

Key Considerations for LTL Shipping

  • Packaging: Proper packaging and palletizing of your goods are crucial to protect them during transit, as your freight will be handled multiple times.

  • Shipment Size and Weight: Understanding how to accurately measure and report your shipment's dimensions and weight is essential to receive an accurate quote and avoid adjustments.

  • Transit Times: LTL shipments may have longer transit times compared to FTL, due to the consolidation process and multiple stops. Planning accordingly is important.

The Bottom Line of LTL Shipping and Trucking

LTL shipping is a smart choice for businesses looking for cost-effective, flexible, and efficient freight transportation solutions.

Whether you’re a small enterprise shipping small batches of goods or a larger company looking to optimize your logistics, LTL can offer significant advantages.

LTL Shipping FAQs

What does LTL stand for?

LTL stands for Less Than Truckload. It is a shipping method used for transporting small to medium-sized freight that does not require the full space of a truck.

What does LTL mean in trucking?

What is LTL shipping?

What is LTL trucking?

What is an LTL carrier?

What are LTL carriers?

What are LTL loads?

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