Businesses in need of freight transportation have various options at their disposal.
The sheer number of choices can seem overwhelming, but when it comes to shipping over the road (OTR), the first step is to choose between FTL and LTL shipping.
In this article, we’ll define the difference between FTL and LTL shipping, cover which is best suited to which types of shipments, and set you up with all the info you need to make an informed decision about which suits your freight needs best.
FTL vs. LTL: What’s the difference?
The key distinction between FTL and LTL shipping lies in whether you use the whole truck or just part of it.
FTL – or full truckload shipping – allows you to use the entirety of the truck/s you hire to transport your shipment.
LTL – or less-than truckload shipping – allows you to use a section of a truck to transport a partial load while sharing truck space with other businesses.
When to choose FTL shipping
FTL shipping can be an excellent choice for a whole range of logistics needs – but it isn’t always the optimum solution.
Before you commit to any shipping mode, it’s wise to ask a few quick questions about your logistics needs.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then it’s pretty likely that FTL shipping will be a solid fit for your business.
Am I transporting more than 12 pallets or 10,000 pounds?
FTL is the best shipping choice for large, bulky, or heavy shipments.
If your shipment can easily fill one – or multiple – trucks, this is a sure sign that FTL shipping will be a good fit for you.
Two quantitative indicators are that FTL shipping is the optimum trucking choice for you if your shipment fills more than 12 pallets or weighs more than 10,000 pounds. However, this is only a rough estimate – some “volume LTL” shipments will weigh up to this amount, and many FTL shipments will weigh much more.
Similarly, even if your shipment wouldn’t physically fill an entire truck, FTL shipping is likely the best choice for you if your shipment is heavy enough to place the vehicle near its weight limit. This means that small but dense shipments are also suitable for FTL shipping.
Opting for FTL shipping in these instances is not only logistically sensible but also ensures you don’t run into safety issues with the size or weight of your shipment.
Do I need guaranteed pick-up and delivery times?
If your shipment is highly time-sensitive, or the nature of your business means you need to be able to guarantee fixed pick-up and delivery times, then FTL shipping is likely a better option than LTL shipping.
Since LTL shipping makes multiple stops to deliver shipments for several businesses, it often takes longer to reach its final destination. Similarly, the need to unload multiple shipments adds time to the journey and increases the chance of unforeseen difficulties that add more time to the clock.
For this reason, LTL shipping typically provides delivery estimates rather than fixed delivery times. For a specified, guaranteed delivery time, FTL is the way to go.
Does my shipment contain expensive, perishable, or fragile goods?
If your shipment contains goods that require specific packaging, are highly fragile, or need to be kept at a consistent temperature, then FTL shipping is the way to go.
LTL loads are often handled more and must be sturdy enough to withstand this. If your load would benefit from the increased security of a single pick-up and drop-off, FTL shipping can provide that.
When FTL shipping isn’t the way to go
FTL offers fast, convenient shipping for high-volume or specialty loads. However, it isn’t always the most cost-efficient choice for all shipment types – that’s where LTL shipping comes in.
There are a few specific scenarios in which LTL shipping might deliver better value for your business, and we’ll detail a couple of these scenarios here.
Your shipment is low-volume or light in weight
If your shipment is compact or lightweight, you may not need an entire truck to transport it. Shipping FTL in these instances would likely not be the most cost-effective option – it’s simply paying for empty cargo space.
You’re operating a small business or would benefit from small – but frequent – deliveries
If you’re a small business or need small but frequent deliveries, FTL shipping may not be your most efficient option.
Filling an entire truck could require you to “save up” cargo. Instead, LTL shipping allows you to seamlessly ship little and often.
As customers increasingly expect rapid delivery of consumer products, the ability to provide a quick turnaround via LTL shipping can be incredibly valuable.
Operating on a budget is a priority
Finally, if cost-efficient OTR shipping is the highest priority, then FTL shipping may not be the best way.
The cost-saving nature of sharing transportation (including the vehicle, driver, and fuel) with other businesses makes LTL shipping incredibly appealing.
To read more about the pros and cons of LTL shipping, you can visit Jansson’s blog, The Logbook.
For FTL or LTL shipping that delivers, there’s Jansson
Regarding shipping OTR, it doesn’t need to be one size fits all.
Whether you’re looking to ship FTL, LTL, or a combination, Jansson provides national and global logistics solutions to meet your needs.
As an independent agent of Landstar, Jansson leverages direct access to industry-leading FTL and LTL carriers to ensure you receive the delivery you need when you need it.
To find out more about the optimum OTR shipping solution for your business or to receive a free FTL or LTL shipping quote, reach out to Jansson today!
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