Ask a Shipping Expert: What is Less Than Truckload Shipping?Being experts on all thing shipping and transport, we often get asked, what is less than truckload shipping? Here’s a quick overview on how it works.

Understanding the basics

Less-Than-Truckload Shipping (LTL) is a transportation service for relatively small freight. Also known as Less-Than-Load, it is an economical and easy way of moving freight that weighs between 150 and 15,000 pounds (Loads less than 150 pounds are commonly handled by professional parcel carriers such as U.S mail).

Businesses use it to frequently move small batches of goods that don’t meet the specifications for Full Truckload (TL) shipment. Most companies ship their products to retailers and distributors before they run low on inventory. Therefore, it is impractical to ship a full truckload when wholesalers have a bit of inventory in stock. Although the shipping costs may be a little higher, Less-Than-Truckload Shipping guarantees dependable inventory availability.

LTL service providers combine shipments from several companies on their trucks, thus making it more economical than using an entire truck for a single small load. Therefore, these companies require detailed logistics planning and a lot of coordination to achieve profitability.

How does less than truckload shipping work?

Less-Than-Truckload Shipping involves several variables such as shipment size, weight, need for specialized handling, destination, place of origin, and the number of pieces. The trucks also vary in capacity from 16-feet to 26-feet. Therefore, different LTL service providers have unique rules and limits for dimensions.

LTL, therefore, deals with shipments between 150 and 1500 pounds. These individual packages occupy close to 24 feet of a trailer truck and consist of less than six pallets. The trucks pack shipments at local terminals and transport them to the hubs. The goods are then delivered to their respective destinations or moved into other trucks to reach the recipients.

Key takeaways

  • Less-Than-Truckload Shipping is a transportation service for small freight — less than 15,000 pounds and more than 150 pounds.
  • LTL providers combine freights from several businesses, using local terminals that connect distribution centers.
  • Using Less-Than-Truckload Shipping is ideal for most companies because it ensures their wholesalers and distributors have sufficient inventory.

Why use less than truckload (LTL) shipping?

Considering LTL shipping comes down to costs. Your business gets to take advantage of economies of scale because LTL allows several companies to fill a single container or truck. Each shipper only accounts for the space they need in the truck. You also get standardized rates because LTL providers are regulated by the NMFTA. Regular trucking, on the other hand, doesn’t have regulated pricing, but rather depends on the market.

When to pursue other options

With Less-Than-Truckload shipping, it takes longer to organize, plan, and prepare freight. The shipment also takes longer to get to the final destination because the truck only leaves once full. Therefore, the main disadvantage of LTL boils down to time.

Let us help

Do you need help with less than truckload shipping? Through our member companies, the ShipNorthAmerica Network offers a broad range of services in specialized freight movement. Visit our blog for news, articles, and updates in the transportation industry, or check out our Shipping Wiki for more shipping terms.