What does less than truckload (LTL) mean?

What does less than truckload (LTL) mean?

Less than truckload shipping is the transportation of a relatively small amount of freight. Full Truckload carriers or parcel carriers are the alternatives to LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) carriers. Parcel carriers almost always handle small freight and packages that can be broken down into units that weight less than 150 pounds (68 kg). If your freight cannot be broken down into smaller units then your company may need a Full Truckload carrier. Full truckload carriers move freight that is loaded into a semi-trailer. A typical semi trailer is between 26 and 53 feet in length. Because of the sheer size of these semi trailers, they require a substantial amount of freight to make the transportation economical

Less than truckload (LTL) shipments usually weigh between 150 and 20,000 + pounds. LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) carriers collect their freight from multiple shippers and then consolidate that freight onto enclosed trailers for delivery terminals or to a hub terminal. These terminals are where the freight will be further sorted, broken down and consolidated for additional linehauls. The drivers of these LTL shipments usually start the day by loading up the freight and heading out to make their deliveries. Once the trailers has been emptied the drivers return to the terminals for sorting and preparing for the next days deliveries. This is why most pickups are typically done in the afternoon and most deliveries occur in the mornings.

Transit time for LTL or less than truckload freight typically takes longer than Full Truckload Freight (FTL). LTL transit times depend upon the makeup of a network of terminals and “breakbulks” that are operated by the carriers. This also involves the carriers interline partners and agents. This means, if a shipment is picked up and then delivered by the same freight terminal, this freight will typically be delivered on the next business day, after a pickup. However, if the freight needs to be sorted or routed more than once, then the transit time will be longer. Delivery of LTL freight to remote locations can add days to the transit time and in some instances the delivery of LTL freight can take up to 10 days.

LTL pickup and delivery drivers typically have set routes which they travel daily or a few times a week. Because of this, the drivers have the ability to develop a working relationship with his/her customers. Once a less than truckload driver has finished his route of filled his trailer, he returns to his terminal for unloading. At this point trailers are unloaded and individual shipments are inspected and weighed to verify their contents and paperwork. All less-than-truckload (LTL) freight is subject to inspection, although not all freight is inspected. The freight is then moved onto an outbound trailer that will forward the freight to a delivery terminal or breakbulk. LTL Freight shipments could be handled multiple times or only once before the final delivery.