25 October, 2021


Filling delivery trucks with freight involves understanding LTL and FTL shipping methods. Knowing these logistical terms could save you money with every shipment.

Not every delivery truck is packed to the roof with crates, pallets, or shipping boxes. Bulky equipment or shipments weighing more than 10,000 pounds are often shipped separately because they take up too much space or weigh too heavily on the trailer chassis. Freight that does not take up all the space in a truck is called Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping. Freight that takes up the full space in the vehicle is called Full Truckload (FTL) shipping.

These two shipping methods have a significant impact on logistical strategies. Depending on which shipping method you pick, you could find a decrease in transpiration costs, faster fulfillment times, and safer handling of your products.


When it comes to LTL freight shipping, the simple definition is that your company’s freight does not take up the full space of a truck. Instead, your shipment has its own dedicated space, but the carrier may still fill the truck to capacity by loading other customers’ shipments that are traveling along the same route.

If a trailer was divided into four sections, your LTL shipment would only take up one of those sections. On those occasions where the LTL shipment takes up half the space in the truck, this shipping method is called Partial Load (PTL), Partial LTL, or Volume LTL. The rest of the vehicle is then reserved for other customers. LTL shipping works well for small goods that are too heavy or numerous for courier services but do not fall into the FTL category.

Here’s a basic idea of how LTL transportation methods work: First, your freight is loaded on a truck. Then as the truck travels along its route, it stops at other locations to pick up other customer’s freight. If necessary, the carrier may unload your freight multiple times so that the other shipments go toward the back of the truck — especially if they have to travel a farther distance to your shipment’s destination.

One important aspect to note for LTL logistics is that you need to know and inform the carrier of all the freight classes of your shipments if you are shipping mixed freight at one time. The different rate classes impact rates for each pallet. Also, the LTL may weigh the freight again and reclassify it when reaching the origin terminal. In these instances, the reclassification may change the shipping rate.


FTL logistics refer to any shipment that takes up the entire or most of a truck trailer. The carrier does not load shipments from other carriers onto the vehicle. This method works well for numerous crate shipments requiring direct transportation to the destination.

Keep in mind that filling up the entire space of a cargo area doesn’t always mean from ceiling to floor or from front to back. FTL transportation may also apply to shipments that are bulky or possess unique shapes. It applies if standard pallets or square boxes could not safely fit inside the trailer around your freight. This circumstance may happen when shipping large parts for heavy equipment or bulky machines for industrial factories.

Another time when shippers ask about FTL freight is when they need to move fragile or time-sensitive goods. While the shipment may not take up the full truck, you may not want it excessively handled once loaded inside. FTL logistics focus on loading the shipment once and not moving it again until reaching the destination. Also, the driver typically does not make stops along the route to pick up other shipments.


FTL and LTL transportation methods each offer unique advantages to shippers. Deciding on a method depends on the size and weight of your shipment, the freight type, the delivery timeline, and your budget. Key differences between FTL and LTL logistics include:

  • LTL offers greater cost savings.You only pay for the space that your shipment takes up in the vehicle. With multiple customers having shipments in the same truck, the transportation expenses are split among each shipper.
  • LTL works for shipments going to different addresses.If the delivery has different addresses for each package or pallet and the freight doesn’t fill the entire truck, then LTL transportation may help save on fuel costs.
  • LTL has more shipment handling processes.LTL is ideal for freight shipments that are sturdy and can handle the constant unloading/loading procedures.
  • FTL provides faster delivery.Since your freight is the only shipment on the truck, the driver doesn’t have to make multiple pickup or delivery stops along the route.
  • FTL has firm pickup and delivery windows.Barring a bottleneck or unforeseen event that impacts shipping times, you’ll know when the driver will arrive and when the freight is delivered.
  • FTL is ideal for fragile and time-sensitive products.There is typically less handling with FTL transportation, as the products are loaded once and only unloaded when reaching the destination.


Many shippers use both transportation methods in their supply chains based on the wide variety of products that need delivery services. Yet, there are times when certain products must take either LTL methods or FTL methods.

Common FTL Products

  • Fragile goods
  • Hazardous substances
  • Bulky, large equipment
  • Shipments weighing more than 5,000 lbs. 

Common LTL Products

  • Products with multiple destination addresses
  • Small food deliveries
  • E-commerce products
  • Shipments of fewer than 12 pallets


Companies across the country search for the right methods to transport their freight that will reach customers on time and save money. FTL and LTL logistical strategies may ensure the safe transport of products to destinations in a reliable manner, while helping you find the best cost savings for your budget.

At WSI, we offer parcel shipping and LTL/FTL shipment services to customers. Our tailored solutions help our clients determine the right logistical strategy that fits with the type and size of their freight. To learn more about our services, contact WSI today.

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