With shipping becoming an increasingly expensive commodity, “less than truckload” (LTL) shipping provides an economical method of transporting small shipments.
Unlike full truckload shipping, which requires you to fill an entire truck or else not use the extra space, LTL lets you transport loads that wouldn’t fill a whole truck on their own — without wasting that spare shipping space.
How? LTL shipping allows you to share truck space with other shipments, helping to optimize truck space, cut costs, and reduce emissions from transportation.
If you’re looking to transport small loads and still want the convenience of shipping by truck, sharing truck space with others could be the way to go.
Curious about whether LTL shipping might be a good choice for you or your business?
Keep reading to learn the benefits and disadvantages of LTL shipping, the types of shipments it works best for, and whether LTL shipping could be the right choice.
What does LTL stand for? A definition
Less than truckload (LTL) shipping refers to transporting multiple small shipments simultaneously in the same vehicle.
Full truckload (FTL) shipping, on the other hand, is used for cargo that can fill an entire trailer or more. While it can be convenient to have transportation reserved for your load alone, this makes less sense when it comes at the cost of empty shipping space!
By sharing space with other shippers, LTL freight means you’ll only ever pay for the space you’re actively using for your load, helping one truck’s worth of room to go further.
The pros and cons of LTL shipping
Consisting of 11.3% of the market share of freight transportation in the United States, LTL shipping offers a less-utilized but valuable service for domestic shippers.
Let’s explore some of the key benefits and drawbacks of LTL shipping and consider whether it might offer an effective solution for your business.
Benefits of using LTL shipping
Making use of a partial truckload through LTL shipping can offer up several benefits, including:
- A cost-effective freight method for small loads
- The ability to ship when ready, not when you have a full truckload
- Optimized use of truck space
- The chance to reduce your environmental impact
- Reduce warehousing costs
Let’s explore each of these in turn.
Cost-effective shipping for small loads
One of the most enticing benefits of LTL shipping is its cost-effective nature.
LTL shipping lets you book a portion of available truck space, meaning you’ll only ever pay for the space you fill. This option makes LTL shipping an ideal transportation option for small businesses, e-commerce shippers, or anyone looking to move smaller loads.
The steep rise in e-commerce shipping that provides a door-to-door service makes using LTL freight an increasingly relevant and cost-effective shipping method.
Flexible scheduling (and reduced warehouse costs)
More flexible shipping options have opened up without the need to collect an entire truck load’s worth of cargo before shipping.
Rather than wait until you’ve received enough orders or amassed enough of a load to make a full truck a worthwhile expense, LTL shipping lets you ship when you’re ready — no matter how small the load.
Faster stock movement along the supply chain can also give the added benefit of lower warehousing costs. Since you won’t need to store an entire truckload (or several) of freight on-site simultaneously, you can reduce stockpiling. Less stock can equal lower warehouse fees — just another way that LTL shipping can prove a highly cost-effective option.
Reduced environmental impact
It’s becoming increasingly important to consider and prioritize the environmental impact of our logistics decisions.
Consolidating shipments is an effective way of reducing the number of trucks on the road. Fewer trucks mean fewer emissions, and with transportation being the number one source of greenhouse emissions in the US, the opportunity for impact here is extensive.
Experts estimate that, hypothetically, if the entire LTL truckload industry were to pool its freight, the sector would be able to reduce its carbon emissions by a total of 40% — the equivalent of powering 15,784,760 homes for an entire year.
While LTL shipping doesn’t exist on quite this scale, utilizing a hub-and-spoke distribution model enables multiple shippers to coordinate, share resources, and ultimately contribute to a reduced environmental impact.
Challenges to using LTL shipping
While LTL shipping offers a range of benefits, there can be a couple of disadvantages, depending on your specific freight needs.
FTL shipping often provides a precise estimated delivery time since the vehicle only needs to deliver a single load — the transit is uninterrupted. On the other hand, LTL shipping typically makes several stops to deliver multiple shipments.
This option doesn’t necessarily result in a longer transit time, but it’s worth factoring in a little additional time to account for the delivery of the other shipments on board.
For this reason, the transit time quoted to you for an LTL shipment is typically an estimate and may vary.
Locating a suitable carrier
Another challenge to using LTL shipping is simply locating a suitable carrier.
LTL shipping is less standard than FTL, and so not every carrier may be able to provide this service. However, opting for a business with access to an extensive network of third-party freight providers can help you locate an LTL carrier that fits your specific needs.
As an independent agent of Landstar, Jansson can offer access to industry-leading LTL providers you can trust, removing the need to locate a carrier yourself.
Is LTL shipping right for me?
Now that we’ve covered the benefits and challenges of using LTL shipping, you might be wondering whether this could be a suitable shipping solution.
LTL freight is best suited to specific types of shipments and is particularly well suited to:
- Small businesses with low volume freight needs
- E-commerce businesses looking to ship more frequently
- Businesses looking for a cost-effective shipping solution
- Any business looking to transport a load under 10,000-15,000 pounds
Let’s explore the factors to consider when deciding whether to opt for LTL shipping:
Shipment weight and size
The first factor to consider is the weight of your shipment. LTL shipping typically caters to freight shipments weighing between 100 to 10,000 pounds. While there may be some flexibility to this, if you’re looking to transport a load that is significantly heavier than this, FTL shipping might prove a better option.
Similarly, if the size of your shipment quickly fills, or is close to filling, the entirety of a truck, then FTL shipping is likely a more suitable shipping mode for you.
The cost-effective nature of LTL shipping makes it an ideal solution for companies looking to ship smaller shipments at a lower price.
LTL shipping is particularly appropriate for small or e-commerce businesses looking to make more frequent — yet smaller — shipments to meet customer demand for rapid delivery.
However, if budget is not a constraint and a direct shipment would be beneficial, then FTL shipping might cater better to these needs.
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a shipping option is the transit speed.
As mentioned, LTL freight makes multiple stops to unload separate shipments to different locations. This option can come at the cost of expediency, making LTL shipping more time-consuming than FTL.
With this in mind, we recommend making sure you can afford to cater for slightly more flexibility around transit time before opting for LTL shipping.
Lessen the load of small shipments today with LTL shipping from Jansson
Image source: Landstar
Shipping is expensive enough without paying for cargo space you’re not using.
Making shared use of shipping space through LTL shipping can provide a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly method of easily transporting smaller loads.
Here at Jansson, we can leverage the Landstar advantage to provide you with access to an extensive network of third-party freight providers to match you with the perfect LTL shipping solution for your needs.
Whether you’re looking to ship locally, nationwide, or into Canada or Mexico, Jansson is ready to act as your one-stop-shop for all your logistics needs.
To find out more or request a free quote, reach out to us at Jansson today.