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Difference Between Less-Than Truckload and Full-Truckload Shipments

Updated: Mar 16

You will often hear the terms less-than-truckload (LTL) and full-truckload (FTL) in the shipping and trucking industry. Although these are common terms that everyone would have heard before, not everyone knows what the terms actually mean. Understanding them properly will not only help you make the best freight choices but will also help you understand what everyone else is talking about.


What is less-than-truckload (LTL)?

Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments are shipments that are too small to fill an entire semi-truck trailer themselves, leaving wasted space in the trailer which contributes to empty miles. LTL shipments are too big to be able to ship as a single package through the mail, and therefore need to be transported by truck.


Usually, carriers will ship multiple LTL shipments at one time to make it mutually beneficial for both parties and reduce driving with no freight. It is more economically friendly for a carrier to fill up their truck with multiple shipments instead of carrying nothing but air, and using fewer trucks means less fuel is being used on the same number of shipments.


Companies only pay for the weight of the shipment and the space that it uses in a semi-truck trailer on less-than-truckload shipments. Shipping companies can minimize their costs by combining their freight with freight of other companies in the same truck load.


What is full-truckload (FTL)?

Unlike LTL, full truckload (FTL) shipments fill up the entire trailer of a semi-truck. Full-truckload shipments are contacted to one carrier and cannot ride alongside other shipments, so the driver only needs to make one stop for the drop-off.


Full-truckload shipments are most efficient, and you save money when you ship a single shipment. Full truckload shipments are typically faster as there are not multiple stops along the route like with LTL shipments. There is also less risk of damage with FTL shipments as there is less touches as you are only going from location A to location B; the shipment stays in your trailer the rest of the time.


What shipment is best for you?

It all boils down to your price. Once you decide how much you want to get paid, finding the loads is the next step. Another important thing to know about is accessorial charges. For example, often when you have an LTL shipment you have to drive to residential areas. If that's the case, then you can add an accessorial charge for that shipment. You can also apply accessorial charges for over-sized freight and if you have to reclassify or reweigh a shipment. Building relationships with direct shippers or working with dispatchers will get you connected to different types of shipments so you can decide what works for you.


Once you have all this in place, your next step is deciding how you want to get paid. If you want to get paid the same day and not wait 30, 60 or 90 days, give us a call at (205) 397-0934 or leave your information below!

When you work with Porter you get paid the same day on every load, get a free fuel card with advances and discounts, free credit checks on all the brokers and shippers you use, get connected with dispatch consultants to fine you freight, and much more.


(205) 397-0934

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205.397.0934

2112 1st Ave. N.

Birmingham, AL 35203

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