Less than Truckload (LTL) vs. Truckload (TL) freight: What's the difference?

open truck from the back

Deciding between the less than truckload (LTL) shipping and full truckload (TL) methods is often a hard choice when you aren’t sure of your options. A lot of factors weigh into freight shipping. Assessment of each element can steer you toward the most efficient method based on your particular needs. Factors like freight dimensions (made up of length, width and height), freight classification and special services are all things to consider when choosing a shipping method.

We've outlined some of the fundamental differences between less than truckload (LTL) shipping and full truckload (TL) freight so shippers can book with confidence.


What are less than truckload (LTL) and full truckload (TL)?

The transport of freight that does not require the entire space of a truck is also known as less than truckload (LTL) shipping, whereas full truckload (TL) shipments take up the space or weight limit of an entire trailer. Depending on your specific freight requirements, one option is likely better suited than the other.


A closer look at less than truckload (LTL) shipping.

Less than truckload (LTL) shipping allows multiple shippers to share space on the same truck. It is cost efficient, with multiple companies paying for their portion of trailer space. The less than truckload (LTL) shipping route is ideal for businesses who have freight shipments less than 15,000 pounds.

To protect items while in transit, it is essential to consolidate goods into large, crated or palletized packages. Prepare the shipment to endure handling during transfer to multiple trailers before it arrives at the consignee or destination.


A closer look at full truckload (TL) shipping.

If less than truckload shipping doesn’t meet your needs, then full truckload shipping might be for you. Shippers use full truckload (TL) when:

  • There are enough items to fill an entire truck.
  • The customer prefers a whole truck dedicated to their goods.
  • The freight is time sensitive.
  • The weight makes it more cost effective than less than truckload.

With full truckload (TL), shipments typically travel on only one truck with one destination, so delivery time estimates are often accurate and fast in comparison to less than truckload (LTL) shipping.

The chance of possible damage to items during transit also decreases since there is less handling of the freight at multiple stops. Truckload (TL) also makes sense when the freight weighs more than 15,000 pounds, or the company has more than 10 pallets worth of goods to transport.

Final thoughts.

While there are pros and cons to each method, one option will prove to better suit your needs depending on your freight. When determining whether less than truckload (LTL) shipping or full truckload (TL) is best for your shipping requirements, check Freightquote by C.H. Robinson for competitive quotes on both modes.


LTL shipping guide

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