The logistics industry can be volatile. Fuel prices rise and drop, carrier capacity can vary, and new challenges are introduced nearly every day. What may work for a shipper one day is not guaranteed to work next week. Businesses must evolve their shipping strategies to meet the needs of their clients, their budget, and the ever-changing logistics landscape.
One of the choices shippers must make is deciding between LTL, PTL, and FTL shipping methods. What are they? Are they ideal for your business? Which one should you be using? We can help you make the right decision. Find out more about FTL, PTL, and LTL shipping methods, and how they work.
What is LTL shipping?
Less than truckload (LTL) shipping is the process of sharing freight trailer space with products and goods from other companies. There are two key elements to LTL shipping; P&D (pickup and delivery) as well as linehaul, which means that your freight will be handled at multiple touch points from origin to destination. It’s generally used for smaller freight that is charged based on its NMFC freight classification (essentially how much it weighs and how much space it takes up on a trailer). Given that you are using only a portion of the total capacity of the trailer, carriers make this worth their while by filling the rest of the trailer with other products, helping keep costs lower than partial truckload shipping methods.
Is LTL shipping right for your business?
LTL shipping is ideal for shippers who do not have the shipping frequency to justify full truckloads but need the flexibility to send what freight they have, when they have it. The benefits of sending freight via LTL shipping include:
- Reduced costs: since you share trailer space with other companies, you also share the cost of shipping, fuel, etc.
- Flexibility: you don’t have to wait until you have the shipments to fill an entire trailer. Shipments can be coordinated and scheduled as needed.
- Environmentally friendly: trailer space is not wasted when sending LTL, so fuel is maximized
- Variety of carrier options depending on your specific needs and delivery requirements
It’s ideal to use LTL shipping if you:
- Are an ecommerce business
- Small to midsize shipment volume
- Mostly send shipments of 4 pallets or less
- Standardized dimension freight
- Dense freight
The general drawbacks of LTL shipping are:
- Increased delivery time: because shipments are subject to capacity constraints driven by carriers consolidating freight on the linehaul.
- Increased handling of products: products are touched multiple times between original pick-up to final drop, which can result in damage
- Shipping high value freight may experience lack of limited liability coverage
Partial truckload (PTL) shipping is classified as shipments that range from 5 pallets up to 20 pallets, with no more than 30,000 lbs. But that doesn’t mean the trailer is solely devoted to your freight; some other products from other companies can be picked up by the carrier to fill the remaining space on the trailer. What’s the difference between LTL and PTL? PTL shipments generally make multiple stops along their routes, but unlike LTL freight, once the trailer leaves the consolidation location it will not get unloaded until it reaches its final destination.
Is PTL shipping right for your business?
PTL shipping is also ideal for shippers who do not have enough freight to fill an entire trailer but need to send out freight rather than waiting for more orders to come in. The benefits of PTL shipping are:
- Less handling: once your products are loaded onto a trailer, they aren’t touched again until they are unloaded at the final destination.
- Freight classes: freight rates are not determined based on classification, rather weight and/or linear feet
- Cost saving advantages: great for higher value freight with far less risk of damage than moving in the LTL network
It’s ideal to use PTL shipping if you:
- Have high value freight
- Have fragile products
- Have low-density freight / higher class freight
- Have 5 to 20 pallets and do not exceed 30,000 lbs.
The general drawbacks of PTL shipping are:
- Increased delivery time: because carriers generally make multiple stops along the way
- Potential delays in shipping due to freight consolidation wait times and capacity of carriers
What is FTL shipping?
Full truckload (FTL) shipping is for larger shipments that require an entire trailer. It allows you to exclusively use the entire space on the trailer and offers a direct route from origin to destination. No stops. No shared trailer space. No changing hands. The only time the shipment will not be in motion is on longer trips where the driver must stop for a break.
Is FTL shipping right for your business?
FTL shipping is ideal for businesses who either have a single large load to move or consistently send out shipments that can fill an entire trailer. The benefits of FTL shipping are:
- Direct routes with one carrier
- Less handling of products
- Fastest shipment times and fewer delays
- No shared trailer space
It’s ideal to use FTL shipping if:
- Need to send products to their destination quickly
- Have concerns about security or product damage
- Have 20 or more pallets of freight
The general drawbacks of FTL shipping are:
- Cost: it can be more expensive to ship products, especially if you are not filling the entire trailer
We can help you decide
At King, we specialize in helping our clients choose between FTL, PTL, and LTL, and with a large partner network of carriers, we have the relationships to ship your products in the best way possible. Sometimes only one shipping method works for a business, sometimes a varied approach is more efficient. We can help you make the best decision for your business, its clients, and your budget. Let’s talk about your shipping solutions today!