A Guide to LTL Shipping (Less Than Truckload)

A Guide to LTL Shipping (Less Than Truckload) 

In the world of freight shipping, it’s not always feasible or cost-effective to ship full truckloads of goods. For those shipments that don’t require the space of an entire trailer, LTL or Less Than Truckload shipping offers a solution. If you’re new to this shipping method, this guide is for you. Here’s what you need to know about LTL shipping and how it can benefit your business.

1. What is LTL Shipping?

LTL shipping stands for Less Than Truckload, which means that the freight being transported doesn’t use up the entire space of a truck. Instead of booking an entire truck for your shipment, you’re essentially renting a portion of it. Your freight occupies space alongside other shippers’ goods in the same trailer.

2. When Should You Use LTL Shipping?

LTL is perfect for businesses that:

  • Have freight shipments weighing between 150 and 15,000 pounds.
  • Don’t need to ship goods urgently (LTL can take longer than full truckload shipments).
  • Are looking to save on shipping costs and don’t mind sharing trailer space.

3. Benefits of LTL Shipping

Cost-effective: Since you’re only paying for the space you use in the trailer and not the entire truck, LTL can be more affordable for smaller shipments.

Eco-friendly: By consolidating shipments from various shippers, fewer trucks are on the road, leading to reduced carbon emissions.

Flexibility: LTL carriers often provide more service options, such as liftgate services, inside pickups, and deliveries.

Tracking: Many LTL carriers offer advanced tracking capabilities, ensuring shippers can monitor their goods in transit.

4. Factors Determining LTL Shipping Rates

  • Distance: The further the shipment has to travel, the higher the cost.
  • Weight: Heavier shipments cost more to ship.
  • Freight Class: Different types of goods have different classifications, affecting pricing.
  • Accessorial Charges: These are additional services like inside delivery or liftgate service.
  • Base Rates: Each LTL carrier has its base rates which can vary.
  • Minimums: Some carriers have a minimum charge regardless of weight or class.

5. Packing for LTL Shipments

LTL shipments are typically loaded and unloaded multiple times on their journey, meaning they need to be securely packaged to prevent damage. Ensure:

  • Use of high-quality packaging materials: Such as sturdy boxes, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts.
  • Palletizing freight: Placing your boxes on a pallet and shrink-wrapping them together can offer extra protection.
  • Labeling: Clearly label each package with the necessary shipping and handling information.

6. LTL Transit Times

LTL shipments often take longer than full truckload shipments. Since multiple shipments share space on the same truck, the carrier will make several stops to load, unload, and sort freight. It’s crucial to factor in these additional times when planning shipments.

7. Tips for a Smooth LTL Shipping Experience

  • Get Accurate Dimensions: Precise weight and dimensions help ensure correct pricing and avoid additional charges.
  • Choose a Reliable LTL Carrier: Research carriers to find those with good reputations, ensuring fewer issues with your shipments.
  • Plan Ahead: Due to the multiple stops and potential for delays, always allow for extra transit time when shipping LTL.
  • Maintain Open Communication: Make sure to provide the carrier with any special instructions or needs related to your shipment.

8. LTL vs. FTL (Full Truckload)

If you’re on the fence about whether to use LTL or FTL, consider the following:

  • Volume and Weight: If you have enough goods to fill or nearly fill a truck, FTL might be more cost-effective.
  • Urgency: If speed is of the essence, FTL can be faster since it goes directly from the pickup to the delivery point without multiple stops.
  • Cost: If you only have a small amount of freight, LTL is typically more affordable since you’re sharing the cost of the truck with other shippers.


LTL shipping is an invaluable option for many businesses, providing cost-effective solutions for smaller freight loads. By understanding how LTL shipping works, its benefits, and when to use it, you can make informed decisions that can save your company time and money. Whether you’re shipping goods cross-country or just a few states away, LTL offers a flexible, efficient, and often eco-friendlier way to get your products where they need to go.