LTL vs FTL Shipping Pros and Cons

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LTL and FTL are two shipping methods that are not all that different from each other. Both of these methods have pros and cons. But what one lacks, the other is usually there to cover.

Small business owners who need to decide between FLT and LTL shipping should know the pros and cons of the two. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of LTL and FTL shipping.

What is LTL and FTL?

LTL means less than truckload. Generally speaking, this is classified as any freight under 10,000 pounds or less. This option is transported by smaller vehicles or, through freight shipping. Freight shipping is when multiple LTL shipments are put into one truck.

FTL means full truckload. These loads take up the entire semi-truck. This is usually classified as anything above 10,000 pounds, but the size of the product matters as well.

LTL Pros

LTL is popular for smaller shipments and  there are a lot of options for how it’s done. Typically speaking, LTL shipments get shipped with other shipments to fill up a truck, but more and more options are becoming relevant.

 1. Flexibility

There are options for those shipping LTL. If you don’t need the shipment to be fulfilled quickly, you can opt for freight shipping. It could take more time, but if you need it quickly you can opt for other options.

Hotshot trucking is the quickest way to get LTL freight to where it needs to go. Because it’s just one small load going from a distribution center or business, hotshots can go straight to the destination.

LTL is also able to ship just about anywhere. The size of these shipments is much smaller than FTL, therefore the truck can get into smaller, busy areas. The options available for the size of vehicle and type of trailer needed make it much easier for special handling instructions.

2. Cost Effectiveness

The trucks that carry LTL are much smaller than semi-trucks and are therefore more cost-effective. You also typically only pay for the last mile of delivery. Therefore, you only pay for that part of the product's journey.

3. Better for Small Businesses

Not everyone has enough products to ship FTL. Small businesses specifically can’t fill up a whole semi-truck and also don’t have time to wait for freight. These businesses don’t always have loading bay options to accommodate larger trucks. LTL options are great for these applications.

FTL Pros

FTL is a sought-after option for some larger businesses. Why is this option available and who is it for?

1. Efficiency

Full truckload shipping is efficient for larger loads. It’s one big haul of materials and goods. Once the truck is loaded, it’s not opened again and the truck can go straight to the warehouse or business with no stops. 

It may seem like a large semi-truck would be inefficient, but when the truck is full of a single customer’s goods, there isn't space for redundancies in the process.

2. Security

FTL carriers don’t open the truck after it’s been packed. Very few hands touch the cargo and it never gets unloaded until reaching its destination.  This makes FTL a more secure form of shipping and is ideal for high-value or delicate cargo.

LTL Cons

LTL shipping is a good option for smaller shipments, but nothing is perfect. The positive things about lighter-than-truckload shipping might outweigh the potential downsides. That’s something business owners will need to decide for themselves.

1. LTL Freight Can Take Time

LTL freight can take a long time from start to finish. The time it takes for these shipments to begin fulfillment depends on how quickly the line-haul truck gets filled. Shipping time is also dependent on how many stops there are along the way. 

Sometimes packages will need to be sent to other distribution centers to be unpacked and placed on other trucks. This also increases delivery time.

2. More Hands on the Cargo

Because LTL freight uses distribution centers, cargo changes hands often. For delicate or high-value items, it can be more nerve-wracking and the odds of a secure delivery can be less likely.

Changing hands often also makes it more likely that something might get lost. It’s not always the best option for people who need a highly secure shipping experience. Things can get mixed up during the process.

FTL Cons

FTL is not for everyone, either. Just like LTL, FTL has its downsides. 

1. Not Ideal for Small Businesses

If you’ve read this far, you’ll probably notice that FTL isn’t good for small businesses. It might not even be a good option for medium-sized businesses. It all depends on the size of the cargo.

2. Limited Flexibility

FTL drivers operate on strict guidelines. Schedules are practically immovable and there are fewer options for special handling needs. In recent years, the supply chain has been facing a bottleneck. This is due to a lack of drivers and is a big reason options like hotshot deliveries are becoming more enticing. 

There is limited flexibility when shipping FTL so if you can’t meet the rigid needs, it may not be for you.

3. It’s Expensive

Paying for a semi-truck to carry a load of your cargo is expensive. Typically smaller businesses can’t afford it, and odds are, they don’t need it. When trucks are not filled completely, you’ll end up paying for space you’re not using.

Which is Right for Me?

The difference between LTL and FTL freight is significant. FTL is for larger businesses that need to ship a lot. LTL is for businesses that have less to send. When choosing between the two, think about how much you need to send and what your budget is.

The questions you should answer are:

  • Are you a small to medium-sized business?
  • Do you have deadlines to keep?
  • Is the destination not that far away?
  • Do you need to send just a couple of pallets?

If you answered yes to most of those, you’ll probably want to opt for LTL shipping.

Open Road is the LTL Shipping Solution for Small Businesses

Open Road is not LTL freight—it’s something new. We tap into the unused market of drivers to send your shipments on your time. As fast as you need it, independent drivers go straight from shipper to receiver, and there’s no changing of hands.

Contact us today to see how we can change the way your business ships.

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