Two of the most common terms used in the shipping industry are LTL (less than truck load) and FTL (full truckload). Their meanings are pretty straightforward. If you are a shipper of goods, it’s important that you know what LTL and FTL means so you’ll be guided on which method to use for each shipment you’ll make.
What is LTL Shipping?
LTL means the goods being transported will not take up the entire space available in the truck. It is the ideal option for small businesses whose goods are shipped in small quantities. Typically, shipments that use LTL weigh between 100 and 10,000 pounds and you can also choose to have ltl expedited truckload shipping or ltl refrigerated truckload shipping.
When you ship your goods through LTL, you save on cost because you only need to pay for the space you use and the length of travel. Let’s say your shipment takes up one fourth of the space on the truck and is the first to be delivered. That means you only get charged for one fourth the cost of the truck, and the transportation cost for that fraction of distance covered. Other customers who ship their goods through the same truck also pay accordingly — for the space their goods take up and the transportation cost for the specific distance covered.
Because LTL combines cargo from several different customers to fill it up, it also means that shipment through this method will take longer to get to its destination. This is because it will have to make several stops to drop off its different shipments at their respective pick up points.
What is FTL Shipping?
FTL means the shipment will fill up the whole truck. FTL is the best shipping option for medium-sized or large business entities who ship large amounts of goods; those who want a dedicated truck even if their shipment is not necessarily large enough to take up the entire space of the truck; or those whose shipment are time-sensitive, delicate or high risk. FTL is usually more expensive than LTL. You can also choose to have expedited truckload shipping or refrigerated truckload shipping.
How do you decide when to use FTL or LTL?
Because of their significant cost difference, deciding whether to send your shipment via LTL or FTL requires careful consideration. Typically, your decision will depend on the following factors:
> How big your shipment is.
> How much your budget is.
> How fast you need your shipment delivered.
> How delicate your shipment is.
Generally, you should opt for FTL or a partial shipment when your shipment is large (weighs 10,000 pounds or more); fragile (perishable, high-risk, prone to damage); or needs to reach its destination quickly. With FTL, your shipment stays in the truck the entire time – from the time it’s picked up until the time it’s unloaded at its final destination. That means it’s not only shipped faster, there’s less risk for damage as well because of the minimal handling it goes through.