LTL freight shipping defined
Here's what you'll find on this page
LTL freight shipping definition
Less than truckload freight shipping (LTL) is used for the transportation of small freight or when freight doesn’t require the use of an entire trailer. This shipping method can be used when freight weighs between 150 and 15,000 pounds.
When shipping LTL, the shipper pays for the portion of a standard truck trailer their freight occupies, while other shippers and their shipments fill the unoccupied space. There are a number of benefits to shipping via LTL.
Benefits of LTL shipping
- Reduces costs: When booking an LTL shipment, you only pay for the portion of the trailer used. The other companies using the trailer space cover the rest.
- Increase security: Most LTL shipments are packaged onto pallets before being loaded onto a truck. One well-packaged pallet has a better chance of remaining secure than shipments with multiple, smaller handling units.
- Add service options: When shipping via LTL, you gain access to special services like liftgates and inside pickup and delivery.
- Track shipments: LTL carriers offer tracking capabilities through the bill of lading (BOL) number, PRO number, PO number, shipment reference number, or pick up date range.
Factors that determine LTL quotes and shipping rates
1. Shipping locations
The further the distance something must travel, the higher the cost it is to ship.
2. Accurate dimensions
The dimensions, size, and weight of the shipment help ensure accurate quotes.
3. Item type
An LTL shipment that requires special handling or equipment (perishables, fragile, hazardous items) will lead to higher costs.
How to lower your LTL freight rates
See four simple, cost-effective strategies that can help you save on shipping LTL freight.
When to choose less than truckload (LTL) shipping
The following situations make the most sense for LTL shipping:
- 1. Small shipments: When your shipment is too small to fill an entire truck, trust LTL shipping experts to consolidate and optimize for you. Benefit from shared transportation costs with other shippers utilizing the same truck—save money by paying only for the space your shipment occupies.
- 2. Flexible delivery timing: Opt for LTL if your shipment isn't time-sensitive and can accommodate flexible delivery times. LTL carriers consolidate shipments, which may take longer than a direct route but offers flexibility.
- 3. Local or regional moves: LTL is the preferred choice for regional or local shipments, especially when the destination is close.
- 4. Limited storage: If your business has limited storage space and can't handle large shipments, with LTL you can ship smaller quantities more frequently, reducing the need for extensive storage.
- 5. Sustainability goals: LTL shipping is eco-friendly as it consolidates multiple shipments onto a single truck, reducing the carbon footprint compared to individual shipments.
LTL shipping may not suit every situation. If your shipment is time-sensitive, requires specific handling conditions, or is exceptionally large, explore alternative options like expedited, or full truckload (FTL) shipping. Additionally, collaborate with reputable carriers to ensure the reliability and safety of your shipments.
Preparing LTL shipments
Round up to the next inch when measuring the length, width, and height of a shipment. Accurate dimensions help carriers maximize their capacity and you can better avoid adjustment fees.
Complete the bill of lading as accurately as possible and give to the carrier upon arrival. This document acts as a receipt for the goods being shipped.
3. Packaging and labeling
Load goods onto pallets to condense and protect your shipments. Heavy items should be placed on the bottom of pallets or crates and a label should be placed on the side.
Additional LTL shipping services
- Expedited: When you need goods to arrive at their destination more quickly than the standard transit time.
- Liftgate: Used when freight exceeds 100 pounds and the receiving location does not have a dock for the shipment to be moved directly off the truck.
- Limited access: Required for deliveries heading to locations with limited access for LTL carriers, such as construction sites, camps, rural locations, strip malls, etc.
- Inside pickup and delivery: If the carrier needs to obtain or deliver the freight by entering the building, you will need to ask for this service.
Common LTL shipping questions
How does LTL work?
LTL shipping operates on a hub and spoke model where local terminals are the spokes and larger central terminals are the hubs or distribution centers.
How is LTL freight priced?
The carrier quotes for LTL freight shipments are based on several factors including distance the shipment needs to travel, size and freight class of the shipment (dimensions and weight), and extra handling or equipment the freight requires, such as inside delivery or liftgate needs for loading/unloading. Requesting options like expedited and guaranteed delivery will also affect freight shipment quotes.
Do I need to know my shipment’s freight class?
Freight class is a system used in the LTL industry to categorize freight based on four factors: density, stowability, handling, and liability. Traditionally, determining freight class for a shipment involved locating an item’s specific National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) number, then referencing long lists that showed the applicable freight class for each item. You can now skip this hassle by using our free online quoting tool, which uses the weight and dimensions of your freight to automatically determine and assign a dimensional freight class to your shipment.
What’s the difference between LTL and FTL?
A Freight that does not require the entire space of a truck is known as a less than truckload shipment, whereas full truckload shipments take up the space or weight limit of an entire trailer.
Should I ship parcel or LTL?
If you are shipping over 150 pounds, consider LTL. Shipping LTL with a freight service provider means competitive rates and expert advice.
How fast is LTL freight shipping?
LTL’s hub and spoke model of consolidating freight typically leads to longer transit times than full truckload services. However, guaranteed and expedited services are often available.
What happens during the pickup of my LTL shipment?
A For a smooth transfer of your LTL freight during pickup, give the driver your bill of lading. And remember, unless previously specified (like in inside pickup and delivery), your driver won’t be able to help load, you’ll have to do it yourself. Watch the video below to learn more about what to expect.
Have an LTL shipment?
Find trusted LTL carriers and book your shipment today.
Get Free Quotes
Related freight shipping services
Looking to ship more than just LTL freight? Explore Freightquote’s most popular freight shipping services below.