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How Does LTL Trucking Work?

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Any business that uses or sells physical product has  transportation and shipping needs. However, shipping for many businesses requires more than just a UPS truck.

In some industries like construction or automotive, small business owners can’t always use traditional semi trucks either. But they still have options to get what they need and get it quickly.

Less than truckload shipping, and the different variations of it, solve a lot of problems for small businesses.

What Does LTL Mean in Trucking?

Less than truckload, or LTL, is a method of shipping for small to medium loads. Anything between 150 and 15,000 pounds is generally considered LTL—essentially, any single load that can’t fill up a semi truck trailer. Imagine a pallet of shingles for a roofing company, or an industrial dishwasher for a restaurant. Neither of these would fill a trailer on their own. A shipment that fills a semi trailer is considered full truckload, or FTL.

It can consist of your cargo going on a semi truck sharing the space with many other partial loads to fill the trailer. The other LTL option is to out your cargo on smaller vehicles like pickup trucks with trailers and cargo vans to be brought right to you.

Different Types of LTL Trucking

No matter the cargo, there are a lot of different ways to get it from point A to point B. LTL transportation can happen a few different ways. Sometimes it’s a straight shot, and sometimes there are different stops along the way.

LTL Freight

You can build up LTL shipments until they all add up to a full truckload. Going from LTL freight to FTL freight is a multistep process:

  1. Smaller LTL shipments are picked up individually and then dropped off at a central shipping hub.
  2. Those LTL shipments get loaded into a long-haul trailer until they equal an FTL. This process is called a “line haul.”
  3. Once they have reached an FTL, they get delivered to a different distribution center where shipments are separated to go to their final destination.
  4. The load then goes on a delivery truck to the final destination.

This process typically requires a reliable transportation management system (TMS) to handle all the logistics. A TMS examines each LTL load and increases efficiency by searching for opportunities to combine with other loads on nearby routes. It provides information to optimize the routes taken and maintain a schedule. while ensuring the best price.

Hotshot Trucking

Hotshot trucking is another type of LTL shipping used when freight is needed on a tight deadline. The driver uses vans, tractor-trailers, or pick up trucks, often their own personal vehicle, to get a job done quickly.

Hotshot trucking is faster than other forms of freight transportation because it typically serves to deliver goods to a single customer or location. It’s typically used when other shipping methods have failed and the LTL cargo needs to get to the destination as soon as possible.

Why Choose LTL?

Each shipping method comes with its own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the best option for you will depend on your own individual needs and priorities.

So, what are the benefits to LTL?

More Cost Effective

With LTL freight shipping, you only pay for the space you need on the 18-wheeler, rather than the entire trailer. Shipping costs are calculated based on the space used, the pickup and delivery locations, and the class of the items being transported. Having a little flexibility on the transit time helps give you a lot of flexibility on the price.

Better for Smaller Businesses

If you have a small, or even medium sized business, you probably don’t need an FTL worth of products and materials at a time. Even small construction companies or event venues rarely need materials that exceed the 10,000 pound threshold. So, why would you pay for a whole truck when you could pay for a fraction of it and still get everything you need?

You can still benefit from the professional services that big companies use without paying for wasted space.

Faster Delivery

With LTL shipping, you don’t have to wait to order a lot of supplies and materials to get it delivered. You can order just what you need when you need it, rather than waiting until you can order a whole truck load.

Hotshot trucking can be especially instrumental in ensuring things arrive on time seeing as it is designed for smaller more time sensitive deliveries that need to get from point A to point B without stops in between.


Hotshot trucking transports products via smaller vehicles, saving on gas and serving as a more eco-friendly option. LTL freight uses one semi trailer with several shipments from multiple businesses, rather than each business using one truck with space left unused. This helps reduce the number of trucks on the road and reduces emissions.  

Use Open Road for Every LTL Shipping Need

Open Road is a shipping marketplace, offering a solution to the ongoing supply chain issues. We help small businesses utilize resources that are already available to get them what they need faster and more efficiently. Through the Open Road app, businesses can connect with independ drivers to ship LTL cargo directly to where it needs to go.

Businesses can ship LTL and receive what they need to get the job done without the price tag or stress of waiting on standard deliveries. Independent drivers make money on their own time using their own equipment.

Reach out to Open Road to learn more about how easy it is for small businesses to ship, and how easy it is to make money as an independent driver.

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