The Differences Between LTL and Full Truckload
Updated: Aug 9
What Is FTL And LTL?
LTL (Less than Truckload) is a trailer that has multiple shipments from multiple shippers and or consignees. FTL (Full Truckload) , also called a Dedicated Truck, is a trailer that carries one shipment from a shipper to the consignee(s).
LTL shipments are picked up and taken to an origin terminal where they will be offloaded and reloaded onto other trailers. Shipments going to similar destinations are consolidated onto one trailer. Depending on the distance, these trailers may stop at multiple terminals to offload freight and reload. Conversely, FTL shipments when picked up stay on that trailer until delivery.
Scheduling and Transit Time
LTL pickups are scheduled for a window of time, not less than 2 hours. For example 8am-5pm or 1pm-4 pm. LTL carriers will not accept appointments for pickup at a specific time. FTL on the other hand, will do Appointment pickups.
Transit days for LTL shipments are always estimated unless it is guaranteed. Many delays can come into play with LTL transit days. For FTL, transit days, while also estimated, are adhered to fairly closely since they do not have to stop at any terminals. Estimates are based on the number of miles and hours of the driver.
Freight Class and NMFC#
LTL carriers charge by freight class and shipments must have the Freight Class and NMFC# on the Bill of Lading (BOL.) LTL carriers can change the freight class if, upon inspection, the shipment is found to be different than the freight class quoted. This will alter the freight charge. FTL does not use Freight Class or NMFC#s so there is no ability for the freight charge to be changed unless there are added services at the shipper’s or consignee’s location.
Security and Damages
LTL drivers do not put a seal on the back doors of the trailers since they are delivering and picking up multiple shipments throughout the day. With FTL, once loaded, a seal can be placed on the back trailer doors for security.
Damages can happen with both modes of transport however they are much less frequent with FTL’s since they do not transfer the freight from trailer to trailer, terminal to terminal.
Expediting and Tracking
Not all LTL carriers offer expediting. Some may offer options but may be more costly depending on the specifics of the shipment. FTL carriers have the ability for a “Team driver” to take a shipment from point A to point B, eliminating stops and long layovers along the way.
Tracking shipments are also different with both. Most LTL carriers have a website that will show the history of each shipment. It may or may not be to the current time of day and you cannot get GPS tracking of a driver. With FTL, we can obtain GPS tracking of the driver if they accept it. Some FTL carriers also have a LIVE tracking system so it is more precise tracking.
Should I Use LTL or FTL?
It depends on each shipment. Cost, urgency and the value of each shipment must be considered. Generally, LTL costs less than a dedicated truck. However, if something is urgent or is of high value, go FTL so it stays on the same trailer and arrives quickly. Our dedicated team of logistics specialists can help you assess your best options and make the best decision.