What is LTL Shipping? A Breakdown of LTL and FTL

Published on
Red Semi truck driving down an empty highway

Shippers have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to how their products will reach their customers. For eBay users, it's easy enough to send parcels through USPS or UPS, but what if you need to ship a multi-thousand dollar epoxy table?

Smaller business owners need to know the options available for them when it comes to the shipping. The two forms of shipping are less than truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL).

LTL vs FTL Shipping

The difference between LTL and FTL is the size of shipment. Shipping companies want their loads to be optimized for cost efficiency and delivery time. However, not every shipment will require a full truckload. 

What is LTL Freight?

LTL generally covers anything less than 10,000 lbs, though weight isn’t the only reason for choosing LTL. Shipments that don’t take up an entire semi-truck trailer are also considered LTL. 

Products that are shipped with LTL carriers are typically moved between multiple trailers and warehouses. Therefore, delivery dates tend to be a window rather than a specific time.

What is FTL Freight?

As you may have guessed, FTL means the cargo takes up an entire semi truck trailer. Generally, FTL is the default when it comes to long delivery routes.

FTL shipments can be made up of multiple LTL shipments. When shipping via LTL freight, multiple small shipments will come together to create one FTL shipment.

FTL shipping includes the benefit of more consistent delivery times. Because full truckload shipping is one truckload to one destination, the packages don’t change hands and it’s much easier to calculate when the truck will arrive. Instead of a window of time, FTL carriers know the day the freight will arrive.

Who Uses LTL?

Anyone can use LTL shipping! Small to medium-sized businesses use LTL shipping the most. Anyone that doesn’t need a large load of materials can opt for LTL shipping.

LTL freight also allows for greater flexibility. Because there are more stops and the truck gets loaded and unloaded multiple times, adding items at different distribution centers is much easier.

Open Road Is the Small Business Shipping Solution

Open Road is a new shipping solution for businesses. We’re using technology to bridge the gap between shippers and small businesses. We’re tapping into the hotshot trucking industry to get your LTL shipments faster, with less hassle.

Who Uses FTL?

Full-truckload is mainly used by large companies. Think  businesses that need to move a whole lot all at once, like big box stores. It’s reserved for companies who can fill a whole truck and pay for it.

A downside of FTL is the higher shipping costs for partial loads. If the truck doesn’t get filled, shippers will have to pay a higher cost per unit. It’s also very difficult to remove or add items once the delivery is in motion.

In other words, you better know what you want to ship and it better be big.

What Does LTL and FTL Look Like?

Knowing what these shipping types look like can be helpful when choosing between the two. They both get the job done, but they operate in very different ways.


LTL shipping can happen in one of two ways. Either the shipment is picked up and delivered straight to the shipper via hotshot trucking, or it happens via freight.

Hotshot truckers are dispatched as soon as the shipper needs them. They don’t have to wait until a truck is fully loaded, so they usually specialize in expedited shipping. For small business owners, this is the biggest appeal to hotshots. They’re quick and the process is  straightforward.

Freight class allows for multiple LTL loads from different businesses to be loaded into a trailer together. It’s a way for shipping companies to save some money and minimize the number of large trucks on the road. If you opt for LTL freight, you only pay for whatever space you take up on the semi trailer. However, it means the package will take more time to ship.


Even though FTL requires larger loads, they tend to be more straightforward. Once trailers are filled and closed, they aren’t opened until they reach their destination. Single cargo loads get shipped from a single shipper to a single receiver.

How Do I Know Which One I Need?

Smaller business owners may be wondering which shipping method is best for them: FTL vs. LTL? 

It ultimately comes down to how much is needed to be shipped. If your shipment is right on the cusp of 10,000 lbs, FLT could be an option. It’s fast because there’s less handling and only one sender and one receiver.

However, businesses that have a smaller amount to ship and are more price conscious are more likely to need LTL delivery. And it gives you options—if you need it fast, opt for hotshot trucking. If you want to cut a few costs and aren't on a tight timeline, choose LTL freight.

Choose Open Road for LTL

There are various LTL options for small businesses, but none are as efficient as hotshot truckers. Open Road makes the benefits of these shipping options easily available for small businesses. 

We’re integrating the everyday driver into the supply chain to ensure packages reach their final destination in a timely and cost-effective manner. Contact us today to learn more and connect with independent drivers and get your shipping needs met. When timing is everything, choose Open Road.

Ship with
Open Road.

Create your account and get shipping.

Being a driver
couldn’t be simpler.

Ready to work your own schedule and get paid that same day? Get in touch with us and we will get you on the road.