What is LTL freight shipping?

When it comes to freight shipping, the easy part is you have options. The hard part is choosing between them. This overview will give you the details on less-than-truckload (LTL) freight shipping, how it compares to parcel and truckload (FTL) freight shipping, the types of cargo it works best for, its benefits and things to consider.

Less than truckload freight defined

As the middle choice in transportation options, LTL freight shipping is used to move cargo that is larger and heavier than standard parcel shipments but does not require a full truck worth of space. Here are general weight and dimensions for each of these service types:

  • Parcel: For shipments that weigh up to 150 lbs. and measure up to 165 inches in length and girth combined, or no longer than 108 inches in length.
  • LTL: For shipments that weigh more than 150 lbs. but less than 15,000 lbs., are no more than 10 pallets and no longer than 12 linear feet.
  • FTL: For shipments that weigh between 15,000 and 44,000 lbs., and up to 26 pallets. The length of the shipment depends on the truck being used.

When To Use LTL Shipping

Take these into consideration when deciding if LTL is right for your shipments:

  • Cost: What's your shipping budget? Because your shipments share the cargo space with other shippers, you'll also share the cost of using it. This makes LTL freight shipping a more affordable option for small and mid-sized companies. You'll save on shipping costs by paying only for the space used instead of renting the entire cargo space as you would with FTL.
  • Timeliness: How soon does it need to arrive? LTL shipments travel with other cargo and make more stops along the way, making transit time typically longer than with FTL. That said, if your freight shipments aren't on a tight timeline, LTL is a good economical choice. On the other hand, LTL can be faster than standard ground service for parcel shipping – items that are larger and bulkier take up less cargo space, which generally means fewer stops. This can make LTL shipping a viable option for businesses moving pallets of bundled packages going to the same destination.
  • Value and durability: Will sharing cargo space be an issue? Multiple freight shipments sharing the same space means additional considerations. Weight distribution can be a problem with different types of cargo. Fragile shipments risk being jostled when placed alongside heavier cargo. But for smaller packages going to the same location, less than truckload shipping can be the optimal choice. Instead of shipping loosely stored packages via parcel, individual packages are packed together in a durable container or protected by shrink wrap on a pallet, putting them at less risk for damage.
  • Tracking: Is end-to-end visibility important? As drivers pick up and deliver shipments, a "paper" trail is created, so it's easy to keep tabs on your LTL shipment as it moves from origin to destination.

Still have questions? Check out our top LTL freight questions.

Making the right move with Worldwide Express – an expert 3PL provider for LTL shipping

Still not sure if LTL shipping is the right choice for your cargo? Worldwide Express can help you decide on the right service type and find the right carrier for the job. As the second largest privately held freight broker in the U.S., our passion is helping small and mid-sized businesses find the right combination of carrier and service to efficiently move their freight. Our logistics experts are ready to support your shipping operation.

Ready to get started? Request a freight shipping quote today and let Worldwide Express help you uncover smart solutions for your shipping needs.