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LTL vs. FTL Shipping: Key Differences and When to Use Each for Your Business

As a business decision maker, understanding the key differences between Less-than-Truckload (LTL) and Full Truckload (FTL) shipping is crucial for optimizing your logistics processes and managing costs. Both LTL and FTL options offer unique advantages and disadvantages, making them suitable for different types of shipments. Knowing which one to choose and when shipping your goods to your customers or distributors. 


In this article, we will explore the key differences between LTL and FTL shipping, their pros and cons, and when to use each option. Our team created this short guide to help you maximize each shipping option, so you can make your business more efficient. 


Less-than-Truckload (LTL) Shipping

A stack of boxes inside a container van being shipped by land freight

LTL shipping, or less-than-truckload shipping, is a method used for transporting smaller shipments that don’t take up the entire space of a truck. Instead of hiring a whole truck for a single shipment, LTL shipping allows you and other shippers to share the space and cost of a truck, making it an affordable and efficient option. This is especially beneficial for businesses and individuals who have smaller cargo sizes or do not need to transport goods in large quantities.

When using LTL shipping, multiple shipments from different customers are consolidated onto a single truck, traveling together on a shared route. This means that the truck might make several stops along the way to pick up and drop off various LTL shipments. As a result, transit times may be longer compared to full truckload shipping, but the cost savings and efficiency make it an attractive choice for many shippers. Additionally, LTL shipping providers often offer services such as tracking and insurance to ensure the safe and timely delivery of goods.



Cost-effective: LTL shipping is often more affordable than FTL shipping for smaller shipments, as the costs are shared among multiple shippers.

Flexibility: LTL shipping allows businesses to transport smaller quantities of goods without having to pay for the entire truck.

Eco-friendly: By consolidating multiple shipments onto a single truck, LTL shipping reduces the number of trucks on the road, resulting in lower carbon emissions.


Slower transit times: LTL shipments often involve multiple stops to pick up and deliver other shipments, leading to longer transit times compared to FTL shipping.

Increased risk of damage: As LTL shipments are handled more frequently during the consolidation and deconsolidation process, there is a higher risk of damage or loss compared to FTL shipments.

When to use LTL shipping

LTL shipping is ideal for businesses that need to transport smaller shipments, typically weighing between 150 and 15,000 pounds, and do not require the full capacity of a truck. It is a cost-effective option for companies that can accommodate slightly longer transit times and are willing to share the truck space with other shippers.

It is ideal when your packages are not time-sensitive and you want to save on shipping costs. One great example of businesses that use LTL shipping is e-commerce sellers who share the space with other sellers delivering products to specific locations. 


Full Truckload (FTL) Shipping

A full container van delivering cargo for a business.

FTL shipping, or full-truckload shipping, is a transportation method specifically designed for large shipments that require the entire capacity of a truck. In contrast to LTL shipping, FTL shipping involves the truck being exclusively dedicated to your shipment. This means that the truck will not carry any other shipments, ensuring that the entire space is utilized for your cargo.

Full-truckload shipping is often the preferred choice for businesses or individuals who have large quantities of goods to transport or require a faster delivery time. Since the truck is dedicated solely to one shipment, there are fewer stops along the route, resulting in shorter transit times compared to LTL shipping. Additionally, FTL shipping may provide more security and control for the shipper, as their cargo is the only one on the truck, reducing the risk of damage or loss during transportation.



Faster transit times: FTL shipments travel directly from the pickup point to the delivery point without extra stops, resulting in quicker transit times compared to LTL shipping.

Lower risk of damage: Since FTL shipments are not consolidated with other shipments, they are handled less frequently, reducing the risk of damage or loss.

Customizable: FTL shipping allows businesses to choose specific equipment and truck configurations to accommodate special requirements, such as temperature control or oversized loads.



Higher costs: FTL shipping can be more expensive than LTL shipping, as the cost of the entire truck is borne by a single shipper.

Less eco-friendly: FTL shipments may result in underutilized truck space, leading to increased carbon emissions.


When to use FTL shipping

FTL shipping is best suited for businesses that need to transport large shipments, typically weighing over 15,000 pounds or occupying more than half of a truck’s capacity. It is also ideal for time-sensitive shipments or those with special handling requirements, such as temperature-controlled or hazardous materials.

Moreover, FTL shipping is a better option when you have proprietary or fragile products that need to be transported delicately. For instance, if you’re shipping your newest products straight to your distributors, it’s safer not to share the truck with other shippers to eliminate the risk of wrong delivery. 


The choice between LTL and FTL shipping depends on various factors, including shipment size, weight, time sensitivity, and specific handling requirements. LTL shipping is a cost-effective and flexible option for smaller shipments, while FTL shipping offers faster transit times and a dedicated truck for larger or specialized shipments.

Understanding the key differences between LTL and FTL shipping will enable you to make informed decisions that best serve your business needs, ultimately leading to more efficient logistics processes.