When To Use LTL Shipping?

LTL freight carrier

When faced with the decision between LTL or FTL, some shippers don’t understand the primary differences between the two and instead, choose an option based solely on price or speed. To complicate this further, some carriers don’t even provide a choice and determine which option makes the most sense for them.

The choice you make will depend on your shipment’s dimensions, weight, budget, and time restrictions. If given the option, it’s essential to understand the benefits of each option to maximize efficiency and minimize costs.

In this article, we will take a look at LTL shipping and in which circumstances it makes the most sense to ship via Less Than Truckload versus Full Truckload.


What is LTL?

LTL stands for less-than-truckload and means your shipment does not fully pack the entire truck. Trucks and carriers can reserve their space for other customers traveling to similar destinations. This practice maximizes capacity and efficiency and cuts costs by allowing customers to only pay for the space their package occupies.

LTL carriers are an environmentally friendly alternative for customers because they minimize the number of trucks on the road and reduce carbon emissions. LTL carriers are also cheaper for customers with packages that exceed weight or dimension limits for parcel shipping but are not heavy or large enough to justify a full truckload.


When to use LTL

There are several factors to consider when determining whether LTL is your best choice.


Size of operation

LTL shipments are a cost-effective choice for small businesses that lack the load to fill an entire truck. LTL shipments are palletized and secured during transportation. Since LTL shipments pass through fewer hands, there’s less likely a chance to damage the cargo. LTL shipments are also more straightforward to track via TMS or other in-house systems. As a result, LTL shipping provides an excellent choice for small to medium businesses with limited cargo who want added protection from damages.



LTL shipments can range from 150 lbs to 10,000 lbs. Anything heavier than 5 tons needs special equipment and requires an entire truck, regardless of whether the shipment fills the truck in its entirety or not. If your shipment weight falls within that range, LTL is the cheaper option.


Time constraints

The downside of LTL shipments is the total delivery time. LTL trucks can carry loads from many customers. While they may be headed to the same city or general area, they will still stop at multiple destinations. Therefore, LTL trucks aren’t ideal for urgent shipments when time is a factor. LTL trucks may provide tracking solutions to keep track of your shipment, but it’s not a guarantee that it will be delivered on time.

If not urgent, shipping products under LTL is the best choice. If it’s urgent, consider using a dedicated truck.



Dimensions play a significant role in choosing LTL or FTL. Price is based on weight, height, length, and girth. If a shipment’s shape is odd, such as a large statuette or art installation, special equipment may need to be rented, and additional charges may apply.

Since odd dimensions take up more space, other shipments cannot be safely stacked or placed in the truck. If dimensions fall within a normal range, LTL shipments can be your best bet.


Freight class

A freight class identifies all freight, and LTL trucks can charge different prices based on freight class. For example, Class 500 is a freight class reserved for antiques, gold bars, or other rate items. Class 500 is also used for low-density, lightweight items such as ping pong balls that take up space. Due to their delicate nature and rarity, truckers must take extra precautions and use special equipment to ensure the cargo is delivered intact, which often translates into additional charges. 

Determining which class your freight falls under will help you determine if LTL shipping is the best way to ship. For example, if your merchandise is high-density and less susceptible to damage, like palletized bricks, it will be cheaper to deliver via LTL.



LTL shipments are ideal for sending multiple shipments to the same destination.


Final Thoughts

LTL shipments are ideal for small businesses with small packages, high-density merchandise, or shipments under 10,000 lbs. However, before deciding which option best fits your needs, we recommend identifying your cargo’s freight class, dimensions, and weight. It’s also beneficial to determine if the shipment is urgently needed and requires a dedicated truck.

With these tips, you can now feel comfortable choosing the best choice for your LTL shipping needs.