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Less-Than-Truckload Versus Full Truckload Shipping: Understanding the Differences

If you’re moving goods, you have two primary choices: less-than-truckload (LTL) or full truckload (FTL) shipping. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks depending on what you need. As a result, understanding the distinctions between LTL and FTL can help you make the smartest choices regarding shipping time, costs, and efficiency.

LTL means shipments don’t take up a whole truck and get combined with other companies’ merchandise. Small to midsize businesses transporting less product over longer distances benefit most from this budget-friendly choice. However, if safety and speed matter more than price, consider FTL, which uses a single trailer just for your items. Although it’s pricier than LTL, FTL delivers greater protection and quicker arrival times.

Wondering which method suits your business best? We’ve got you covered. Let’s explore the key details, from factors influencing pricing to their effects on delivery schedules, so you can make the best choices for your logistics plan.


Less-than-truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL) shipping are two types of truck transportation for goods. Here’s a basic rundown:

Less-than-truckload (LTL): With LTL shipping, several clients share a truck’s area for their individual shipments under LTL. This makes LTL a good choice for small to midsize businesses hauling lighter cargoes across lengthy distances while keeping expenses minimal, thanks to split costs. That said, delivery times could vary due to possible consolidation and redistribution pauses during transit.

Full Truckload (FTL): In full truckload (FTL) shipping, only one client’s freight occupies an entire trailer. This option is ideal for situations demanding quick and safe transport, even though it tends to cost more. Exclusive access eliminates extra handling, reduces the chances of damage, and expedites arrivals.


Man loading freight for less-than-truckload or full truckload shipment

So, what’s the best option for your next shipment? Let’s walk through the common differences between LTL and FTL shipping to help you find the ideal solution for your upcoming delivery.


LTL is similar to carpooling, where you share the space of an 18-wheeler trailer with other businesses. This works well for mid-sized deliveries, ranging from around 100 to 5,000 pounds (typically a few pallets worth of goods).

On the other hand, FTL is like booking a private plane exclusively for your belongings. You’ll have the whole trailer to yourself, negating the requirement for sharing or consolidating with others. Choosing FTL is essential when managing sizable shipments amounting to over 10,000 pounds, such as truckloads filled with heavy machinery or bulky construction materials.


Unlike taking turns covering the dinner tab among friends, LTL keeps expenses manageable due to divided costs. Payment aligns with the occupied segment of the trailer and correlates to variables like size, weight, and mileage, together with occasional supplementary costs like fuel surcharges.

FTL, conversely, involves bearing the total charge irrespective of utilization levels. Although this method is pricier, it may eliminate some incidental costs related to LTL, such as packing or specialist handling fees. The overall cost reflects factors like the selected truck dimension, traversed miles, and changing fuel prices.


LTL may encounter prolonged transit periods due to consolidation processes and numerous stopovers for collection and distribution activities. As a result, patience prevails as estimated arrival times might stretch beyond initial anticipations.

Meanwhile, FTL frequently reaches destinations earlier since your cargo won’t await other businesses filling the remaining space. Direct transport results in fewer obstacles, similar to utilizing high-speed lanes on freeways.


LTL requires increased supervision as packages pass through myriad junctures, warranting diligent repackaging post each shift. Proper preparation techniques can help you maintain safety amidst constant movement.

FTL offers decreased interference, letting you know that your valuables remain undisturbed within the identical partition throughout the expedition. Diminished engagement subsequently lowers the odds of accidents or mix-ups.


Both LTL and FTL services accept accountability and offer insurance alternatives to counteract losses or damages. Within LTL, slight amplification in perils emerges due to enhanced handling instances. Suitable indemnity measures, nonetheless, subdue qualms linked to unfavorable occurrences.

Due to the solitary emphasis on your belongings, FTL offers heightened caution and surveillance opportunities. These obligations will either fall on you or the designated transporter, stressing the importance of confirming adequate protective coverage.

Want total peace of mind when you ship LTL or FTL? Purchase a uShip Protection Plan at checkout.


Thinking about choosing LTL shipping for your next delivery? Here’s what to expect with this shipping method.


  • Affordable transportation: With LTL, you’ll save on costs by sharing trailer space with other shippers. Prices are generally calculated based on freight classification, weight, base rate, and distance. You can also customize your shipment with optional services provided by carriers.
  • Greener supply chain: Sharing resources will reduce your environmental impact. Studies have shown a significant decrease in emissions associated with LTL shipping compared to FTL shipping.
  • Secure logistics: You can count on advanced technologies and standard operating procedures for accurate tracking and error prevention. Barcodes, real-time GPS tracking, and automatic sorting systems enhance reliability.
  • Adaptability: You’ll also be able to modify shipment frequencies and quantities as your business expands.


  • Potential delays: Plan for longer shipping windows caused by consolidation, deconsolidation, and regular stopovers. To deal with anticipated delays, it’s recommended to backup strategies.
  • Reduced product safety: With LTL shipping, it’s more difficult to protect your goods from potential harm derived from excessive handling. You’ll want to secure packages with sturdy materials, shock absorbers, and warning labels for the best results. In addition, work with trustworthy carriers proficient in delicate freight handling.
  • Unforeseen expenses: You’ll need to understand concealed costs like residential delivery charges, lifting devices, restricted liability coverage, and storage tariffs. Before committing to LTL shipping, make sure to ask for clarity in agreements.


Full truckload shipping involves dedicating an entire trailer to a single delivery, which has unique advantages and drawbacks. Be sure to carefully weigh these factors when choosing the right shipping method for your business.


  • Speedy deliveries: Enjoy prioritized treatment with direct point-to-point transportation, which helps avoid consolidation delays. Streamlined operations translate to faster turnaround times and satisfied recipients. For example, if you’re an event organizer sourcing catering equipment from distant vendors, you might choose FTL shipping for punctual arrivals and meeting tight deadlines.
  • Minimal product handling: Limiting physical interactions will keep your cargo safer. FTL shipping eliminates the necessity for repeated stacking and restacking during transit.
  • Enhanced security: FTL shipping helps safeguard valuable, confidential, or sensitive commodities with controlled environments designed specifically for your parcels. For instance, high-tech firms rely on. FTL shipping to dispatch proprietary components securely, preventing intellectual property theft.
  • Customized solutions: You can book tailored vehicles for unique shapes, sizes, or weights. Professionals can also modify trailers for seamless, hassle-free loading and unloading. Countless auto manufacturers leverage FTL shipping to carry automotive parts of varied proportions, ensuring smooth production flows.
  • Simpler paperwork: FTL shipping comes with reduced administrative burdens when coordinating single-source movements. Construction material distributors appreciate the straightforwardness of FTL shipping invoice reconciliation compared to juggling multiple parties in LTL shipments.


  • Higher shipping costs: FTL shipping involves the full rental cost of a trailer unit. As a result, shipping costs can escalate rapidly, especially for long-distance routes.
  • Underutilized space: Even if you don’t fill the trailer, you still reserve unused trailer portions, which can add unnecessary costs.
  • Fixed schedule: Your carrier will follow strict departure and arrival guidelines with FTL shipping.
  • Heavy equipment requirements: You might need to use specialized gear for exceptionally heavy or voluminous freights. For instance, industrial plants invest heavily in cranes, slings, and jacks to manipulate colossal FTL shipments, which can lead to higher costs.

Ultimately, full truckload shipping can help you tap into key advantages, including faster shipping speeds, minimal handling, superior security, and simplified paperwork. At the same time, it’s essential to recognize the potential cons of this method.


Example of freight for less-than-truckload or full truckload shipping

How do you know when to use LTL and FTL shipping? Here’s a helpful breakdown of what factors to consider to make the smartest decision for your business.

  • Type of cargo: If you’re shipping normal-sized items like pallets, boxes, or barrels, LTL is likely your best bet. But if your shipment is big, strangely shaped, considered hazardous, or needs special handling, FTL might be a better fit.
  • Shipment distance and location: LTL shipping is great for regional moves, local distributions, crowded city areas, or tough-to-reach spots. Need to send goods long-distance, straight from one place to another, or stick to tight delivery schedules? FTL is the way to go.
  • Needed level of service: Are you counting on perks like guaranteed delivery dates, lift gates, or top-notch security? Usually, LTL gives you more extras than FTL. Don’t need anything fancy? FTL might be enough for you.
  • Compatibility with current systems: Does the shipping method blend well with your existing warehouse, distribution centers, or returns’ processes? LTL might sync up better with your tech, giving it an advantage over FTL.
  • Price and efficiency: Finally, run the numbers. Figure out the actual costs, potential savings, and projected returns on investment. Sometimes, LTL can help you money, while other times, FTL pays off more.

Keep in mind that LTL and FTL aren’t rivals. Instead, they actually work pretty well together. Approaching their pros and cons openly and fairly helps you look past bias and build custom combinations that support your company’s goals.


Your choice between LTL and FTL shipping should depend on the volume of items, the urgency of the delivery, and your shipping budget. The LTL option is cheaper for smaller shipments, such as a few boxes of artisan candles from an online store. Instead of renting the full truck, you’ll just pay for the space your products take up. While LTL may take a few extra days to reach your consumers, the cost reductions usually exceed this.

If you have a huge commercial load that can fill a truck, FTL shipping’s speed and efficiency may be more appealing. Faster delivery since the vehicle goes from point A to point B without stopping. If you’re in a rush to ship your stuff, FTL might be worth the extra costs.

Remember: There’s no single freight shipping solution. To find the most efficient and cost-effective shipping method, assess your demands and limits and collaborate with a trustworthy logistics operator like uShip. We can help you choose LTL or FTL so your cargo arrives on time and on budget.


What’s the difference between LTL and FTL shipping?

Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping is for smaller loads that don’t fill up a whole truck, while full truckload (FTL) shipping is for larger loads that take up an entire truck.

How do I choose between LTL and FTL shipping?

Consider the size of your shipment, how quickly you need it delivered, and your budget. LTL is best for smaller, less urgent loads, while FTL is ideal for larger, time-sensitive shipments.

What are the advantages of LTL shipping?

LTL shipping is more cost-effective for smaller loads and allows you to ship items without having to wait for a full truckload.

What are the disadvantages of FTL shipping?

FTL shipping can be more expensive for smaller loads, and you might have to wait for a full truckload before your items can be shipped.

Is LTL shipping more cost-effective than FTL shipping?

LTL shipping is generally more cost-effective for smaller shipments, while FTL shipping is more economical for larger loads.

When should I use LTL instead of FTL?

Use LTL when you have a smaller load that doesn’t require a full truck and when you have a flexible delivery timeline.

Can I track my LTL or FTL shipment?

Yes, most carriers offer tracking options for both LTL and FTL shipments.

Are there any insurance options for LTL and FTL shipments?

Yes, many carriers offer insurance options for both LTL and FTL shipments to protect your goods in case of damage or loss. Or you can purchase separate cargo protection directly through uShip.

What factors influence the cost of LTL and FTL shipping?

Factors that influence shipping costs include the size and weight of your shipment, the distance it needs to travel, and any additional services required (e.g., insurance, expedited shipping).

How do transit times differ between LTL and FTL shipments?

FTL shipments generally have faster transit times since the truck is dedicated to your load and doesn’t make multiple stops. Meanwhile, LTL shipments may take longer due to multiple pickups and drop-offs.