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What is LTL freight?

04.10.2021 | By AJ Todd | 3 min. read

Ship smaller and smarter with LTL shipping.

Freight trucking transports more than 70% of all products in the US. But the world of freight shipping is complex: from freight class to the differences between LTL, TL, and shared truckload, you must understand how freight works. 

If you’re new to freight services, there’s a good chance you need less-than truckload (LTL) freight service in your supply chain. This is a cost-effective choice that’s perfect for smaller shipments. Check out this guide on LTL freight to see how this optimized and efficient freight option will save you both transit time and money. 

What does LTL stand for?

Less-than truckload freight is a type of freight shipping. Unlike other shipping methods that employ a whole truck for your shipments, LTL allows you to pay only for the space you use. Other shippers share the remaining freight space with your LTL shipment. Think of LTL as a jigsaw puzzle where several shippers’ pallets fit together to form one complete truckload. 

Small businesses prefer LTL carriers because they don’t have to pay for an entire truckload, reducing costs significantly. Because the truck hauls several shippers’ products, LTL carriers make multiple stops and your shipment goes through more processing as a result. If you need expedited delivery, a liftgate, residential delivery, or any other special service, you’ll pay what’s called an “accessorial fee.”

You pay for LTL freight based on your shipment’s length, width, and height, rounding up to the nearest inch. The more accurate your measurements, the more efficiently the freight provider can move your shipment. Most LTL shipments are palletized and wrapped in multiple layers of plastic wrap to protect the goods.

Is LTL freight right for you?

LTL is a great option if you’ve outgrown parcel shipping — think UPS and FedEx — and don’t have enough products to fill up an entire truck. LTL is ideal for: 

  • Freight that’s less than 4,000 pounds
  • Businesses that can only fill a portion of the trailer. 
  • Cost-conscious businesses that need to transport products at a lower rate. 

Because LTL freight carriers rely on weight and dimensions for pricing, it’s important to get all of the details correct on your bill of lading (BOL). Your team needs to be precise to avoid any delays with your shipment.

How is LTL freight shipping different from TL and STL shipping? 

Although there are several types of freight shipping, the most common are LTL, truckload (TL), and shared truckload (STL)

TL (or full truckload), LTL, and STL transport freight in a class 8 truck or semi. While they all employ professional CDL drivers and ship palletized freight, TL and LTL charge accessorial fees for additional services. There are other big differences between these three types of shipping services.

LTL

Most LTL freight shipments are 1-6 pallets. LTL shipments of multiple shippers share a truckload, cutting down on dead space for the carrier while giving shippers more affordable freight costs. 

Because LTL accounts for multiple shippers, it’s a better fit if you have flexible delivery dates. Your LTL shipment will stop multiple times before reaching its destination, so prepare your pallets for more handling. 

TL

TL freight transports just one shipper’s products on a truck at a time. If you choose truckload shipping, you have exclusive use of a trailer and your shipment goes straight to its destination. This shipping mode is better for shippers with more than 10 pallets. 

The downside of TL freight is the price. Instead of paying for a fraction of a trailer, you’re paying for the entire truckload. If you can’t fill that truckload with products, you’re paying for unused space, which is a waste of money.

TL comes at a significant cost to the environment, too. Instead of maximizing the space in a trailer, TL freight often moves on partial or empty trucks, which leads to fuel waste. This affects the bottom line, too: shippers spend an enormous amount every year on unused trailer space with TL. 

If you can’t use TL with your current freight levels, you can always wait until you have enough products to fill an entire trailer. But that means you’re creating bottlenecks in your supply chain, which can cause delays and a bad customer experience.

Shared truckload

Shared truckload combines the benefits of TL and LTL for the best of both worlds. The shipping service, called FlockDirect™️, pools multiple shipments into one shared truckload, moving LTL-size freight with high-quality truckload service. Like LTL, STL enables several shippers to share space on one, multi-stop truckload.

However, with shared truckload service, shipments that are traveling on a similar route move on the same truck. Your freight goes directly from its pickup location to its destination, never setting foot in a hub.

As a shipper, you get the cost savings of paying for just the space you need, while avoiding the damage and delays that can happen with LTL shipping. STL is also beneficial because it doesn’t have freight class requirements or weight minimums, helping you save time and money. 

In addition, shared truckload optimizes truck space and routes, reducing each shipment’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40%.

Flock Freight® is the only provider that can guarantee shared truckload service at point of sale.

The two benefits of LTL freight

You’ll enjoy two main benefits when you go with LTL freight:

1. Efficiently ship smaller orders

You don’t have to continue shipping goods if it’s a huge hassle for your business. LTL freight gives small businesses access to the convenience of quality freight shipping without the huge costs. Focus on scaling your business, ship freight as needed, and preserve your resources with LTL.

2. It’s cost-effective

LTL freight rates are just a fraction of what a TL would cost. With LTL, you only pay for the space you’re occupying and avoid the high costs of TL. 

Keep in mind that freight costs fluctuate based on distance, freight class, weight, and even factors like seasonality and fuel costs. You’ll also pay more for expedited delivery, hazardous materials, or perishable materials.

Ship smarter with LTL freight

LTL freight shipping is one way to deliver your products at lower costs. Give your business the upper hand by choosing a freight option that works for your shipping needs. 

But remember that LTL freight has its disadvantages. Shared truckload is an affordable option for LTL-size shipments that’s more efficient, fast, and eco-friendly. Deliver smaller orders, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint by booking Flock Freight’s smarter shipping process: shared truckload.


Focus on your business, while we handle the freight.