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  • Kevin Kennedy

Less Than Truckload (LTL) Vs. Truckload (TL) Freight: What's the Difference?

Updated: Jun 29, 2018


When shipping over ground, there are several methods to choose from. Each has its pros and cons. In this quick guide, we break them down for you. Less Than Truckload (LTL) combines shipments from multiple customers in the same load. Truckload Freight (TL) means that the entire load consists of your product only. A volume shipment is when the size of your load falls between these two options: larger than LTL, but not quite enough to take up an entire truck.


• LTL loads usually consist of 6 or fewer pallets worth of material, and weigh around 7500 pounds or fewer. This is the cheapest method, but it's also slower and less safe. There will be multiple stops along the delivery, so product is loaded and unloaded multiple times, increasing the chance of damage and the time taken to reach the destination.


For an LTL load you will use a common carrier, something like UPS Freight, Pilot Freight Services, SAIA, Roadrunner Transportation, XPO Logistics, or YRC Freight.


Pricing for LTL loads is regulated by the National Motor Freight & Traffic Association (NMFTA), a non-profit organization of motor carriers. The price is determined by origin & destination, cargo weight, cargo space, and NMFC class.


• TL loads usually consist of up to 30 pallets worth of material, and up to 40,000 lbs. This method is more expensive than the others, but it's fastest and safest.


The truck carries only your cargo, so it will be loaded and unloaded just once, and there will be minimal stops along the route. For a TL load you will use a private carrier.


Pricing will depend on your carrier and the market. TL pricing fluctuates constantly.


• Volume shipments are what you use when you have too much cargo for an LTL load, but not enough to take up an entire truck for a TL load. These usually consist of around 10-20 pallets worth of material, and over 10,000 lbs.


This method has much of the same benefit as a TL load, but is cheaper.


For volume shipments, you will use a private carrier.


That's it. Next time you need to choose between TL, LTL, or volume shipping, you'll know that you made an informed decision.


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