LTL vs TL Shipping: What’s the Difference?

    Truck and highway at sunset - transportation background

    Did you know that 71% of all freight in the US is moved by the trucking industry? So, if you’re looking to move freight across the country, booking truckload shipping services is the best way to do it.

    However, there are different freight services available to you, like LTL shipping and TL shipping. How do you know which one makes the most sense for your needs? We’re here to help.

    In this guide, we’ll cover the differences between LTL vs TL shipping, break down the pros and cons of each, and help you decide how to choose the right shipping option for your needs.

    Let’s dive into it!

    What Is LTL Shipping?

    LTL shipping stands for less-than-truckload. This means that the shipper fills the truck with freight from multiple clients since none of them have enough freight to fill an entire truck.

    For example, if you have a small load of freight that can’t fill a truck on its own, you can choose LTL shipping and you might share the truck space with three or four other clients who also have smaller loads. Typically, this is the option you’ll choose if you have freight weighing less than 15,000 pounds.

    In this case, you’ll only pay for the space that you use. Essentially, if you use a quarter of the space in the truck, then you pay based on that space.

    Pros of LTL Shipping

    So, what are some of the benefits of LTL shipping? Consider the following pros:

    • It’s a cost-effective shipping option since you don’t have to pay for an entire truck
    • It makes shipping options available to smaller companies so they can compete with bigger corporations
    • Your freight is secure in the truck thanks to the use of pallets
    • LTL shipping is available across the US and Canada, with plenty of carriers offering the service, so you’re not limited in where your freight can go

    If you don’t have a large shipment, you can’t go wrong with LTL shipping.

    Cons of LTL Shipping

    Before you decide on LTL shipping for your freight, consider some of the downsides of this option as well.

    • It may not be the best option for sensitive freight, as multiple people will handle it along the transportation route
    • You may experience longer shipping times, as you’ll have to wait for a carrier to find other cargo to consolidate on the truck before shipping
    • Some LTL carriers don’t have their own hubs, so they rely on third-party hubs that can increase shipping costs

    Weigh the benefits and disadvantages carefully before making your final decision on which shipping option is best for your needs.

    What Is TL Shipping?

    Truckload (TL) shipping, also known as full truckload (FTL) shipping is the opposite of LTL. You can choose this option when you have enough cargo to fill an entire truck up to 50 ft long. If you have freight that weighs over 15,000 pounds or takes up more than 10 pallets, then you’ll want to choose TL for your shipping needs.

    However, keep in mind that all of your cargo needs to be going to the same destination since TL trucks don’t make stops along the way.

    Also, keep in mind that you can choose TL shipping if you prefer not to share a truck with other cargo, which is especially helpful if you have sensitive cargo.

    Pros of TL Shipping

    Want to see if TL shipping could be right for you? Consider the benefits of choosing this shipping option:

    • It helps protect sensitive cargo since there is less handling at transit points
    • It generally is a faster shipping method, since you don’t have to wait for the truck to fill with cargo from other customers
    • It can be a cost-effective method if you have several pallets of cargo to ship
    • You’ll have a dedicated truck for just your cargo
    • Many carriers have set rates based on weight and location, making it easier to get more accurate shipping quotes

    Keep these benefits in mind when making your decision.

    Cons of TL Shipping

    Curious about the downsides of TL shipping? Here are some of the cons to remember:

    • It’s significantly more expensive than LTL shipping
    • If you’re a smaller company that prefers not to share a truckload, you may not be able to afford TL shipping
    • There could be some restrictions on how to move the cargo if the truck breaks down, leaving your freight stranded
    • TL carriers often don’t have partnerships with other carriers like LTL ones do, which can lead to higher rates for you

    While these are serious cons to consider, many companies with large amounts of freight often find that the pros far outweigh the cons.

    The Most Important Things to Consider When Making Your Decision

    Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between these shipping options. The most important things for you to consider are the amount of freight you need to ship, how much you’re comfortable spending, how quickly you need it delivered, and whether you’re comfortable sharing truck space with other types of freight.

    If you have a small load and you want to save on shipping costs, you should probably choose LTL shipping. If you have sensitive cargo, need a quick turnaround time, or have a large amount of freight, then TL is the better shipping option for your needs.

    It’s also a good idea to talk to carriers to learn more about what they recommend for your specific needs. See more here about choosing a carrier.

    LTL vs TL Shipping: Know Your Options

    Now that you know more about LTL vs TL shipping, the pros and cons of each, and the most important things to consider, you’re ready to make your decision. Find the right carrier and get your cargo on the road!

    Looking for more guidance as you make important business decisions? Check out our other articles before you go.