What is Full Truck Load (FTL)Shipping?

What is Full Truck Load (FTL)Shipping?

March 12, 2024

Businesses seeking freight carrier services are presented with a myriad of options to transport their goods efficiently.  Among these options, Full Truckload (Full Truck Load (FTL)Shipping) emerges as a preferred transportation method for handling substantial shipments, necessitating the entire space of a truck. FTL shipping proves particularly advantageous for businesses aiming to transport high-value or heavy-haul items over extensive distances.

In scenarios where logistic companies deal with sizable shipments characterized by time sensitivity and containing delicate materials, FTL freight emerges as the optimal choice.

The inherent nature of FTL shipments entails reduced handling, consequently minimizing the potential for freight damage.

This reduction in handling not only enhances the safety and security of the cargo but also streamlines the overall transportation process, ensuring timely delivery of goods.

Thus, businesses entrusted with large-scale shipments can rely on FTL services to meet their logistical needs effectively.

What is Full Truck Load (FTL)?

Full Truck Load (FTL), or full truckload shipping, describes a transportation method where a single shipment utilizes the entire capacity of a truck. In FTL shipping, the goods occupy the entirety of the trailer or container, destined for a single consignee or delivery location.

Key characteristics of FTL shipping include:

Capacity Utilization:

The entire space within the truck is dedicated to a single shipment, maximizing the use of available capacity.

Direct Delivery:

FTL shipments usually travel directly from the point of origin to the final destination, minimizing transit times and handling by eliminating intermediate stops or transfers.


FTL shipments are generally more efficient for transporting large volumes of goods over long distances compared to less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments, which involve multiple smaller shipments consolidated onto a single truck.

Reduced Handling:

Since the goods occupy the entire truck, there is minimal handling or transfer of the shipment during transit, reducing the risk of damage and ensuring greater security.


FTL shipments provide shippers with the flexibility to customize schedules and choose routes according to their unique needs and preferences.

Overall, businesses commonly prefer FTL shipping for transporting large-scale shipments, high-value goods, time-sensitive deliveries, and items requiring special handling or enhanced security measures.

It offers a dependable and effective solution for transporting goods over extended distances while reducing the potential risks associated with handling and transit.

Benefits of FTL against LTL shipping

Full Truckload (FTL) shipping offers several advantages over Less-than-Truckload (LTL) shipping, particularly for businesses with large shipments or specific logistical requirements. Here are some key benefits of FTL compared to LTL shipping:

Faster Transit Times:

FTL shipments typically have shorter transit times since they go directly from the point of origin to the destination without intermediate stops for consolidation or deconsolidation.

Reduced Risk of Damage:

With FTL shipping, the goods occupy the entire truck, minimizing the handling and potential for damage associated with multiple stops and handling in LTL shipments.

Enhanced Security:

FTL shipments provide greater security because the cargo remains sealed within the truck from origin to destination, reducing the risk of theft or tampering compared to LTL shipments that may undergo multiple handling and transfers.

Greater Control:

Shippers have more control over scheduling and routing with FTL shipments, allowing for customized transportation solutions tailored to specific delivery requirements.

Cost Efficiency for Large Shipments: While FTL shipping may seem more expensive upfront, it can be more cost-effective for transporting large volumes of goods compared to LTL shipping, especially when considering factors like per-pound rates, accessorials, and the overall efficiency of transportation.

Reduce Accessorial Charges:

FTL shipments typically incur fewer accessorial charges (additional fees for services like liftgate, residential delivery, or inside delivery) compared to LTL shipments, which often have numerous accessorial charges due to handling at multiple stops.

Decreased Freight Handling: FTL shipments involve less freight handling since goods load onto the truck at the point of origin and unload at the destination, reducing the risk of damage or loss associated with multiple handling in LTL shipments.

Ideal for Specialized Cargo:

FTL shipping shines when it comes to specialized cargo necessitating precise handling, temperature control, or heightened security measures.

With the entire truck dedicated to meeting these requirements, FTL eliminates the need to coordinate with other shipments.

In summary, while LTL shipping may cater to smaller shipments or those with varied origins or destinations, FTL shipping presents clear advantages in terms of speed, security, control, and cost efficiency for businesses managing larger shipments or particular logistical demands.

Differences Between LTL and FTL

Here are the key differences between LTL (Less Than Truckload) and FTL (Full Truckload) freight:

  1. Volume of Goods:

    • LTL: In LTL shipping, parcels typically occupy only a portion of a truck’s space since various shipments from different senders are consolidated onto one truck.
    • FTL: FTL shipping involves goods that fill the entire truck’s capacity, as the entire truck is dedicated to transporting one shipment from a single sender to one recipient.
  2. Handling and Consolidation:

    • LTL: Shipments in the less-than-truckload (LTL) category necessitate consolidation at terminals or hubs, where smaller shipments undergo sorting, combination, and loading onto trucks bound for similar destinations. This consolidation optimizes truck capacity and operational efficiency.
    • FTL: Conversely, full truckload (FTL) shipments bypass consolidation requirements, as the entire truck is allocated to transporting a single shipment. Freight loads onto the truck at the shipper’s location and travels directly to the consignee without interim stops.
  3. Cost Structure:

    • LTL: LTL shipping costs typically hinge on factors like shipment weight, dimensions, distance, and any additional services enlisted. Shippers pay for the utilized space and services, rendering LTL shipping economically advantageous for smaller shipments.
    • FTL: In contrast, FTL shipping pricing revolves around the entire truckload, regardless of the cargo volume. While FTL shipments may entail higher initial costs, they often prove more cost-effective for large quantities of goods compared to LTL shipping on a per-unit basis.
  4. Transit Times:

    • LTL: Transit times for LTL shipments may be longer due to the need for consolidation and sorting at terminals or hubs. However, LTL carriers often provide reliable delivery schedules and service options to meet customer needs.
    • FTL: Transit times for FTL shipments tend to be shorter since there is no need for consolidation or sorting en route. FTL shipments are typically delivered directly from the point of origin to the final destination, minimizing transit times.
  5. Handling and Risk:

    • LTL: LTL shipments may undergo multiple handling processes during consolidation and sorting, which can increase the risk of damage or loss, albeit carriers take measures to mitigate such risks.
    • FTL: FTL shipments involve less handling since the freight is loaded onto the truck at the shipper’s location and unloaded at the consignee’s location. This reduces the risk of damage or loss during transit.

How to Optimize Your Options: LTL vs. FTL

Optimizing between LTL (Less Than Truckload) and FTL (Full Truckload) shipping options involves considering various factors to determine the most suitable choice for your specific transportation needs. Here are some steps to help you optimize your options:

  1. Evaluate Shipment Characteristics:

    • Assess the volume, weight, dimensions, and characteristics of your shipment. Determine whether it qualifies as a full truckload or if it would be more appropriately shipped as less than truckload.
  2. Consider Cost Factors:

    • Compare the costs associated with LTL and FTL shipping for your particular shipment. Evaluate factors such as rates, fuel surcharges, accessorials, and any additional services required.
  3. Assess Transit Time Requirements:

    • Determine the urgency of your shipment and consider the transit time requirements. Evaluate the typical transit times offered by LTL and FTL carriers to ensure your shipment meets the desired delivery timeframe.
  4. Analyze Freight Class and Density:

    • Understand the freight class and density of your shipment, as these factors can impact pricing and carrier selection. Ensure accurate classification and packaging to avoid unexpected charges or delays.
  5. Evaluate Service Levels and Reliability:

    • Research the service levels and reliability of LTL and FTL carriers. Consider factors such as on-time delivery performance, claims ratio, tracking capabilities, and customer reviews to select a carrier that meets your expectations.
  6. Assess Special Handling Requirements:

    • Determine if your shipment requires any special handling, such as temperature control, liftgate service, or hazardous materials transportation. Consider whether LTL or FTL carriers are better equipped to meet these requirements.
  7. Consider Sustainability and Efficiency:

    • Evaluate the environmental impact and efficiency of your transportation choices. Consolidating multiple LTL shipments onto fewer trucks can help reduce emissions and improve sustainability.
  8. Negotiate Rates and Contracts:

    • Negotiate rates and contract terms with LTL and FTL carriers to secure competitive pricing and favorable terms. Consider factors such as volume commitments, contract length, and accessorial charges when negotiating contracts.
  9. Utilize Freight Management Tools:

Take advantage of freight management software and tools to streamline the shipping process, compare rates, track shipments, and                    manage logistics efficiently.

  1. Monitor Performance and Adjust Strategies:

    • Continuously monitor carrier performance, shipping costs, and customer satisfaction levels. Adjust your shipping strategies as needed to optimize efficiency, reduce costs, and meet customer expectations.

By carefully evaluating these factors and considering your specific shipment requirements, you can effectively optimize between LTL and FTL shipping options to ensure timely, cost-effective, and reliable transportation of your goods.


In summary, choosing between LTL (Less Than Truckload) and FTL (Full Truckload) shipping options requires careful consideration.

You need to look at factors like shipment details, costs, transit times, freight class, service reliability, and special handling needs.

It’s also important to think about sustainability, negotiating rates, using freight management tools, and monitoring performance.

By doing this, you can ensure timely, cost-effective, and reliable transportation while meeting customer demands and business goals.

Ultimately, success in shipping depends on thorough planning, smart decision-making, and continuous adjustment based on performance feedback.

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