Partial Truckload vs. LTL Shipping

Published on
Jul 28, 2023
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When your business relies on freight shipping for success, you need to ensure you’re getting the best rates and providing the most efficient, most reliable service possible. Every business has different shipping needs, so it’s important to consider all your options when selecting the method that will work best for your freight.Often, growing businesses need to move freight before they have enough to fill an entire truck. Rather than pay full truckload (FTL) rates, many businesses look to services that will help them ship smaller loads without eating up all of their profit.In these cases, many shippers choose partial truckload (PTL) and less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping, which are geared toward small- to medium-sized businesses. What’s the best choice when it comes to partial truckload vs LTL shipping? Let’s take a look at what these terms refer to and how they compare to other shipping modes in the industry.

What is partial truckload shipping?

Partial truckload (PTL) is a freight shipping option that can help you reduce costs — if it aligns with your shipping needs. It's not the most common way of shipping due to more specific freight requirements, but because it picks up and delivers loads in one truck on a direct route, it is efficient.In PTL shipping, freight volume typically ranges from 10,000 to 40,000 pounds, although specific weight requirements may vary depending on the carrier and region. PTL shipments are collected and combined with partial loads from different shippers that are going in the same direction, loaded directly onto a truck and delivered to their destination with minimal handling or stops. This is in contrast to the LTL shipping process (which we’ll discuss in a moment) where shipments may be offloaded and reloaded at multiple consolidation centers along the route.

How does PTL compare to other shipping types?

Different freight specifications are often served better by specific shipping modes. Let’s compare and contrast the three main shipping options so you can determine the best one for your needs.

PTL vs. LTL shipping

Partial truckload and less-than-truckload shipping are two distinct freight modes. Both cater to businesses that need to ship amounts that are smaller than a full truckload. Both services aim to fill a truck with different shipments that are all heading to the same destination, and offer a reduced rate to shippers sharing the space. But there are some key differences.

  • PTL freight tends to fall between 10,000 and 40,000 pounds. Carriers typically require a minimum threshold in terms of weight or volume to be cost-effective, which can be harder to reach for small businesses. Partial truckload shipments are picked up and sorted at a consolidation center and loaded directly onto the truck which will transport it to its destination with minimal stops or transfers, resulting in shorter transit times.
  • LTL shipments can range in size from 150-20,000 pounds, offering more flexibility for shippers. Each takes up less than half of a trailer’s capacity, so they can be combined with other shipments from the same company or different companies on the same route. LTL prices vary between carriers, but they are impacted by shipment weight, distance, freight classification, accessorials, and current market conditions. LTL routes often include consolidation points where cargo is unloaded, reorganized, and reloaded, increasing the risk of damage or loss as it passes through multiple hands. Multiple stops can also increase the total transit time.

When it comes to deciding between partial truckload vs LTL, LTL shipping is commonly the go-to for many businesses because it’s cost-efficient, flexible, and offered by most freight carriers.

PTL vs. FTL shipping

Full truckload (FTL) is the most common and simplest way to ship. Due to this simplicity, many companies unfortunately opt for FTL instead of PTL – wasting money by paying to ship air.

  • Partial truckload provides an option for smaller businesses that need to send shipments too large for LTL but not large enough to occupy an entire truck. PTL shipments usually fall within 5-22 pallets and weigh 5,000-40,000 pounds. With PTL, freight is consolidated at a warehouse to optimize trailer space and ensure efficient use of available resources. Pricing for PTL is usually negotiated based on factors such as weight, distance, and delivery schedules, and may include accessorial fees.
  • FTL shipping is perfect for large businesses that consistently ship hefty amounts of freight (at least 15,000 pounds at a time). FTL quickly moves shipments to their destinations without needing stops for unloading or consolidation, with faster delivery times, but it’s usually the most expensive option.

PTL is a cost-saving alternative for businesses shipping larger shipments that are too big for LTL but still don’t fill a truck to capacity.

PTL vs. STL shipping

Flock Freight’s unique shared truckload (STL) mode is a consolidated freight shipping alternative. Like PTL, it allows multiple shippers to share space in a single truck, ultimately reducing the number of trucks on the road.

  • In traditional PTL, shipments are picked up and taken to a warehouse, where they are combined to maximize truck efficiency. The focus is primarily on filling the truck with multiple partial loads.
  • STL goes beyond traditional shipping consolidation – ensuring more efficient space utilization, coordinated schedules, and optimized routes to minimize common challenges such as damage and delays. Using Flock’s patented technology, shipments are combined before pickup, allowing them to skip the warehouse and travel directly to their destination.

STL helps you optimize your shipping processes, save up to 20% on freight costs, and worry less about damage and loss — all while reducing your company’s environmental footprint.




Save up to 20% on shipping costs with Flock’s Shared Truckload (STL)● Combines elements of LTL and FTL shipping● A more efficient, cost-effective option with faster, more reliable transit than traditional LTL● Reduced risk of damage or loss● Increased shipment visibility so you’ll always know exactly where your shipment is● No last-minute charges or hidden fees● FlockDirect® offering uses patented tech to match shipments with carriers, utilize truck space efficiently, and optimize routes — helping you save money and provide amazing service

Shipment Specifications:

At least 15,000 pounds

10,000-40,000 pounds

150-20,000 pounds


Single route with no stops for consolidation;Fast transit times

Reduced handling results in lower risk of damage or loss;Direct route for faster shipping

Flexible options for growing businesses;Efficient use of truck space;Lower cost for small shipments


Higher cost for smaller shipments

Not appropriate for all smaller shipments, due to specific weight and size requirements

Multiple touchpoints mean increased handling and risk of delays, damage, and loss;May incur accessorial fees

Most appropriate for:

Large businesses that consistently ship large amounts of freight

Medium-sized shipments that are too big for LTL but not large enough for FTL

Small shipments that can share space — and cost — with other shipments

A better alternative to PTL shipping

Affordable shipping and on-time, damage-free deliveries are important for your business success, but when your freight is less than a full truckload, it can be challenging to meet those goals. Hub-and-spoke LTL means indirect routes with multiple stops at consolidation centers where the risk of delay, damage, or loss increases each time freight is unloaded and reloaded. Shipping FTL is a valid option, but it’s expensive and inefficient — you pay for space you’re not using, and often, trucks move partially empty. PTL is often a viable option, but not every shipment will meet its size and weight requirements.Flock Freight’s STL solution offers the best of all worlds. Our patented technology considers destination, scheduling requirements, and freight compatibility to match shipments with carriers in the safest, most reliable, and most efficient way possible. With STL, you’ll save money and ensure your smaller shipments arrive on-time and intact.Ready to see how a smarter supply chain can impact your business? Request an STL demo today.

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