When you regularly need to ship in bulk across the country and have no desire to spend a lot of money, freight shipping is almost always your best option. The competition between carriers keeps prices low and competitive, and they provide countless opportunities for people who need to customize the way their shipment is delivered.
Advanced technology can help people estimate when their packages will be delivered, logistics professionals make sure that the highways are navigated in a safe and efficient manner, and time-tested packaging techniques ensure that shipments aren’t damaged in any significant fashion during transit. With all these developments on the carrier side of the industry, less responsibility falls in the hands of shippers. However, one thing shippers are still expected to understand are the different shipping options they have at their disposal so that they can make the best choice for their specific freight.
In this blog post, we’ll dissect the differences between the different carrier options offered to consumers with a special emphasis on Partial Freight Shipping or Partial Truckload (PTL) shipping. We’ve decided to single this method out because it’s not a widely known option, but it has numerous benefits in comparison to Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping and Full Truckload (TL) shipping. Benefits that could come in handy given the particular needs of your shipment.
What is partial freight shipping?
Hovering in the murky area between TL and LTL shipping is an unsung hero. It doesn’t receive the distinction it deserves because of all the common applications for TL and LTL; however, it is a convenient option when the time is right. Partial Freight or Partial Truckload shipping is the smart alternative for shipments that are time-sensitive or slightly larger than your average LTL shipments but don’t require the use of a full truck to transport them.
It’s easier to think of partial freight shipping by using a simple visual tool- imagine the long, rectangular cabin of a truck:
- TL shipments are going to take up 100% of the usable area, the entire shipment dedicated to that one load.
- LTL shipments will take somewhere around a quarter or less of the area, leaving room for other shipments.
- PTL shipments will take up about half of the truck. It will remain onboard for as long as the truck is in transit, and so requires less handling on behalf of the carrier.
When you should consider partial freight shipping
The way to figure out if you should be opting for a partial freight shipping option is by considering the goods you’re attempting to ship. Much of the time, it may seem like the shipment could either fall between an LTL and a PTL shipment or an TL and a PTL, but making the final decision will often come back to the specific needs of your load.
- The first thing you should consider is size. Often, Partial Truckload shipments are defined as shipments that weigh somewhere in the large range of 5,000 pounds and 38,000 pounds. If your shipment is going to weigh less, it should be considered for LTL, and if it weighs more, TL is your only option.
- Another way to determine whether PTL shipments are appropriate is the number of pallets used by your load. If it requires at least five pallets, then it is a candidate for PTL shipping.
- If your shipment is large but doesn’t weigh a whole lot, it should be sent PTL. Loads like this are considered low-density, and because of their size generally, don’t fit the qualifications for LTL, but don’t really need all of the specialized services of an TL shipment.
- If your shipment is especially fragile or you don’t want it to be handled often for any reason, PTL shipments are a great option. Because they stay on one truck the entire time they’re in transit, they aren’t handled nearly as much as the similar LTL option, which is often passed from truck to truck on the way to its destination.
How to handle partial freight shipping
Before we get into the benefits of PTL shipping – of which there are many – it’s important that we take a second to consider how we should handle our partial freight shipments and prepare them for transit.
Just like LTL and TL shipments, PTL loads need to be carefully evaluated prior to being shipped. When you’re preparing your PTL shipment to make sure you do the following:
- Accurately weigh and measure all of the dimensions related to your shipment. That includes the width, height, length, and weight of your shipment. If you fail to properly record these dimensions, you might end up paying significant adjustment fees or be unable to load your freight onto the truck.
- This should go without saying, but take the time to properly package your shipment. Unlike TL shipments, PTL shipments still share space in the truck with other loads. It will be the priority shipment, but that doesn’t mean that you can be careless with your packaging. Roads get bumpy, and it’s important to make sure that your load won’t spill out and potentially damage other cargo within the truck.
- Think about any special services that your shipment might require. If you’re going to be sending perishables, make sure you’ve talked to the carrier to ensure that accommodations have been made to keep the shipment at the right temperature. When trucks travel through the northern US states and into Canada during the winter, it’s not uncommon for shipments to freeze while traveling through sub-zero temperatures.
Benefits of partial freight shipping
When you are looking to ship freight, it’s sometimes uncommon to see partial freight shipping on offer. This is because not a lot of people request it, partly out of ignorance and partly because LTL and TL are the primary way shipments are delivered. However, if you have properly recorded the dimensions of your shipment and realize that PTL might be a viable option, there are many benefits to this mode of shipping.
Faster delivery times
When you decide to ship PTL, your shipment is placed onto a single truck and is not touched until it arrives at the destination. This is one of the main distinctions between PTL and LTL shipping. If you ship freight using LTL, it is often moved from truck to truck along the way to its destination.
Faster shipping times is one of the ways in which PTL is similar to TL. For business owners who are looking for speedy delivery, it’s often the second fastest of the three delivery options. Because shipments go through fewer stops, PTL deliveries see an increase in the percentage of on-time deliveries.
For anyone who has attempted to ship something only to find that it reached its destination in a different condition, PTL offers customers the benefit of less handling. Generally, the only time a PTL shipment is touched is when it is picked up from the origin point and when it’s removed from the truck at the destination. This is because it remains on one truck the entire time.
Because it’s handled less, PTL shipments are often ideal for people who are attempting to ship precious or fragile cargo. If your business was shipping fine china across the United States using an LTL shipment, you would have to prepare yourself for the possibility that it would be mishandled at some point along the journey as it was passed from truck to truck. PTL offers peace of mind for shippers who are concerned about something like this happening.
It’s an affordable option
A good way to think about the affordability of PTL shipping is by comparing it to buying an expensive item that’s on sale. PTL shipping has many of the benefits that TL shipping has but at a much lower cost. The difference is that TL shipments are the exclusive cargo of a truck, whereas PTL still splits some of the freight space with other shipments. However, for most people, this is not a problem.
Compared to TL, where you are essentially buying all of the space and time of a single truck, with PTL you get what you pay for. Depending on how much your shipment weighs and how much space it’s going to take up within the truck, you are billed according to those dimensions. Sometimes when a shipper pays for TL transit, they wind up paying for empty space that their load didn’t take up. In this way, PTL shipments are superior.
PTL shipments are frequently discounted
Because not many people know about PTL shipments, it’s not uncommon to see them discounted by carriers. If you’re trying to budget or get the most bang for your buck, this benefit is another reason why PTL is an option worth considering.
PTL shipments don’t require freight class
When you register your shipment after you’ve taken down the dimensions and the weight, it’s assigned something called a freight class. Carriers will use that freight class to determine how much to charge you for the shipment and how to properly handle your pallets.
When you ship using PTL shipping, freight class becomes irrelevant. That’s because it’s a custom amount that fits somewhere between the set LTL shipments and the TL shipments. In effect, this eliminates extra charges that can accrue, such as minimum density charges for larger shipments and reclassing, which happens when shippers fail to properly register their freight class.
Difference between partial truckload and volume LTL shipping
While you should now understand the difference between LTL and PTL shipping, sometimes people get confused when they’re introduced to Volume LTL. It’s easy for shippers to assume that it’s the same as partial truckload, especially when some carriers present it as an alternative, but it doesn’t offer many of the same benefits as PTL.
- Similar to PTL shipping, Volume LTL is used when shipments are larger than regular LTL but don’t require an entire truck like TL.
- Volume LTL shipments still require that shippers register a freight class, whereas PTL shipments do not.
- When you order Volume LTL shipping, your load is still forced to travel through various hubs and terminals on the way to its destination. Because of this, Volume LTL shipments regularly take longer than PTL shipments to reach their destination.
- Because Volume LTL shipments pass through many terminals and may travel on various trucks, they are handled more frequently than PTL shipments. During the course of transit, this increases the possibility that delicate goods might be mishandled.
How partial freight shipping can make you more competitive
Because many people don’t even know that PTL shipping is an option for their freight services, many miss out on all of the benefits that it offers. When discussing the benefits of PTL shipping, the common theme was that this method of delivery can save both businesses and individuals a lot of money. Because the freight is customizable and is tailored to the exact needs of your shipment, it removes all of the unnecessary costs that can accrue when you ship using LTL or TL.
If you’re a business that needs to ship something delicate or needs their package to arrive quickly, asking your carrier for the PTL option will ensure that your goods are delivered in a timely manner and aren’t sitting around in a hub somewhere in between you and its intended destination.
For all people who are considering shipping something that is larger than a small LTL delivery, considering PTL might end up saving them a lot of money and will ensure that their shipment moves quickly across the country!