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What shippers should consider when choosing between shared truckload and freight consolidation

10.04.2021 | By Min Kim | 5 min. read

Discover which shipping mode speeds up your supply chain with faster transit times

Table of contents:

This peak season, freight volumes are up, capacity is tight, and inventory is on back order. Carriers have the negotiating power and are rejecting loads, leading to higher shipping costs. As the holidays draw closer, shippers are preparing for a bumpy ride. With consumer demand and expectations for fast delivery higher than ever, shippers are sending their goods to distribution centers and retailers as soon after production as possible. But moving finished goods immediately can be difficult with traditional shipping modes, especially for partials that measure 10-28 linear feet.

Historically, shippers with partials have had three types of service to choose from:

In this article, we’ll focus on partial truckload and another mode on the market: shared truckload (STL). We won’t discuss:

  • Volume less-than truckload because it provides a suboptimal (and pricey) shipping experience for partials. VLTL freight doesn’t always arrive intact or on time and can take the back seat to smaller shipments in tight markets. 
  • Truckload because — in the context of partials — it wastes too much space, money, and emissions for us to consider it a viable solution. A surprisingly high percentage of partials that move with TL service don’t fill trailers to capacity.


Consolidated freight doesn’t equal higher service levels

Partial truckload shipments move via freight consolidators (asset-light LTL carriers) that specialize in specific regions. Shippers tend to get quotes from many consolidators or hire brokers with large networks to secure nationwide service and realize cost savings.

The benefits of partial truckload include:

  • Fewer transfers than LTL shipments.
  • No freight-class requirement (no risk of incurring reclassing fees).

The downsides of partial truckload include:

  • Regional — not national — reach.
  • Potential for long transit times
  • Can result in damage and loss.
  • Split-up shipments a possibility.

The consolidation process causes the primary drawbacks of this mode. After pickup, carriers bring partials to processing facilities for truck transfers. A load’s final-destination transit doesn’t begin until the facility has accumulated enough freight to top off a whole truck. As a result, partials can wait at processing facilities for days before final-destination transit begins. Whether loads idle at consolidation facilities or jump on a truck immediately, the amount of handling can lead to undue damage and loss. Additionally, the potential for split-up loads means freight in the same shipment might arrive at different times. 

Even if consolidation services don’t damage, delay, or lose freight, partials moving via PTL can still deliver late and jeopardize customer satisfaction.

[Learn more about the challenges that come with PTL shipping here.] 

Fewer trucks and transfers equal higher service levels

Shared truckload is another freight-shipping option that gives partials high-quality, hubless service and priority in a market that might otherwise move TL or LTL shipments first. Shared truckload freight moves directly from its pickup location to its destination without passing through hubs or terminals. Unlike other modes, shared truckload enables several shippers to share trailer space in one multi-stop full truckload. With shared truckload, shipments that are traveling on a similar route move on the same truck.

Shared truckload applies the concept of carpooling to shipping, optimizing truck space, loading freight in last-in, first-out (LIFO) order to minimize handling, and keeping shipments in the same load together.

shared truckload shipping

The benefits of shared truckload include:

  • Nationwide reach.
  • Direct, hubless transit.
  • Minimal handling and low risk of damage.
  • No risk of split-up shipments.
  • Easy and accurate shipment tracking.
  • Predictable delivery windows.
  • No freight-class requirement (no risk of incurring reclassing fees).
  • Cost savings.

Flock Freight® offers a shared truckload solution, FlockDirect™️. When shippers book FlockDirect, they pay just for the space their freight needs and not a cent more. This pricing structure allows retailers to leverage lower shipping costs and pass on their savings to consumers.

FlockDirect shippers can count on capacity, too. Flock Freight is helping shippers find carriers in the current capacity crunch by:

  • Incentivizing carriers to move shared truckload freight. Because carriers earn more per mile on shared truckloads, FlockDirect shipments are more attractive to truck drivers than standard one-pick, one-drop freight.
  • Partnering with carriers in both the LTL and TL markets, who we source depending on your shipping needs. 
  • Maintaining a carrier network that’s 10,000+ strong.

To ensure your freight arrives on time, we give you the option to select your pickup and delivery dates during booking. From there, our technology proposes shared truckloads that account for these dates. FlockDirect shippers can send finished goods right away and trust it to arrive on time, in full.

Shared truckload gives shippers what they need in today’s tough market: efficient and reliable shipping at a lower cost. This mode drives efficiency within supply chains by allowing shippers to send goods immediately after production and keep their customers happy.

[Download Flock Freight’s shared truckload guide here.] 

Why you should explore STL service providers

While both the PTL and STL shipping modes build loads with freight from multiple shippers, the difference between the two is clear:

Consolidators pool freight with processing facilities. Flock Freight pools freight with technology.

Freight consolidators can’t load freight until it’s in front of them at a facility in the middle of transit. Flock Freight’s technology pools freight into shared truckloads before pickup.

So which one should shippers choose? Walk through this flowchart to see when you might benefit from booking FlockDirect:


Freight consolidation uses outdated processes; STL uses innovative technology

In summary, shared truckload is a reliable service for partials that helps shippers streamline processes and manage shipping costs. In a speed-focused freight landscape with limited capacity, Flock Freight’s shared truckload solution, FlockDirect, is the key to overcoming supply chain challenges.

Next time you find yourself booking service with a freight consolidator, remember your other option: shared truckload.

No one does shared truckload like Flock Freight. Experience the FlockDirect difference for yourself.