Transportation Tuesday: FTL vs. LTL
If you’re new to logistics, you have probably noticed the industry’s abundance of acronyms. Spend any amount of time investigating domestic transportation and you’ll soon find a pair of acronyms that crop up more frequently than the innumerable others: FTL and LTL. While FTL and LTL are simple concepts in the realm of logistics, understanding them is crucial for considering your options in 3PL solutions. Here’s a quick explainer to help.
LTL – Less Than Truckload Shipping
Function: Shippers use LTL truck transportation when they have a Less-Than Truckload shipment. That is, they need to book only a portion of a truck’s total capacity. Multiple shippers can reserve space aboard a single truck.
Cost: LTL splits up the total cost of a truck trailer’s capacity into smaller pieces. Shippers with smaller loads don’t have to commit cash to reserve an entire trailer. It makes truck transportation more accessible to organizations with lower shipment volumes or smaller transportation budgets. You only must spend the money to reserve the exact amount of space you need and no more. However, LTL services may cost more on a per-unit/pallet basis than FTL.
Transit Time: An LTL service may not go directly from pickup to your shipment’s destination. The carrier may have stops scheduled for other clients with shipments on board before it reaches your drop-off point. For that reason, direct-route services are not as common with LTL.
Advantages: LTL is preferred for organizations without bulk shipment needs. If you only need to move a few pallets at a time, it’s a more cost-effective option.
Disadvantages: There are a few shortcomings to LTL shipping. It tends to have longer transit times than FTL since other shippers have freight aboard for delivery. Plus, your goods may be handled a few times to offload other shipments at their destinations.
FTL – Full Truckload Shipping
Function: Shippers use FTL truck transportation for Full Truckload shipments. In other words, the load requires an entire trailer for transit. Instances that necessitate FTL transportation include high-volume/large-item loads, short transit time requirements, fragile cargo, and more.
Cost: The overall cost of FTL is typically higher than LTL by virtue of booking an entire trailer load. However, booking an FTL shipment may be more cost-effective than shipping the same volume across multiple LTL services.
Transit Time: FTL truck services go directly from pick-up to drop-off destinations. There are no additional stops in between.
Advantages: FTL is often a safer, more reliable bet than LTL. The routes are direct, your freight is handled fewer times, and there are fewer variables overall.
Disadvantages: There isn’t much pricing flexibility with FTL. You’re on the hook for the cost of the whole trailer and can’t divvy up your load to get the best spot rates.
Should You Use FTL, LTL, or Both?
Figuring out whether to opt for LTL or FTL depends on your organization’s specific needs. Are you a bulk shipper moving components for manufacturing? FTL is the best bet. Are you a small business looking to transport inventory for the holiday shopping season? LTL may be a better choice. For many, the solution lies in a combination of the two.
Whatever your needs are, working with a 3PL is one of the best ways to sort out the best truck transportation solution. The experts at Scarbrough Transportation can tailor an FTL or LTL service strategy that builds a path to sustained success in domestic logistics.