When choosing which method of freight forwarding is best suited for your cargo, there are many factors to take into consideration. Ocean, air, and ground freight all have separate subcategories which offer different services. In shipping by road, there are two main types of trucking options; LTL and FTL.
You can read about the factors that affect LTL and FTL freight rates in our freight quote blog post. Details such as origin, destination, package dimensions, transit time frame, and whether or not the shipment is hazardous or not, should all be taken into consideration.
What is LTL Freight?
LTL stands for Less-Than-Truckload, which is also known as Less-Than-Load. You can find LTL services with many large, national logistics providers, as well as with specialized freight forwarding companies. It is a shipping service for smaller amounts of cargo that do not fill up an entire truck.
Advantages of Choosing LTL Freight
LTL is worth looking into when businesses want to maximize cost savings. With this shipping method, there are usually many separate, unrelated shipments being transported in the same truck. And not only is the space shared, the cost of shipping LTL is divided up between shippers. Shippers only pay for the portion of the truck that their freight takes up, which makes LTL shipping ideal for businesses that do not always need a full trailer.
Efficient Use of Fuel
The ability to lower fuel costs while improving sustainability is also another reason to look into LTL freight. Instead of dispatching multiple trucks with cargo that only takes up a fraction of their capacity, trucking companies accumulate enough shipments to fill up a truck before sending it out. This method uses fuel efficiently, and lowers the gas cost for companies. LTL freight reduces empty miles and decreases a company’s carbon footprint with less emissions in the environment by putting out fuller, but fewer trucks on the road.
Beneficial for Small Businesses
Small businesses that ship fewer goods can benefit greatly from LTL shipping. Small companies do not have the cargo nor the budget of large companies , so by turning to LTL shipping, a substantial amount of money can be saved. It brings professional freight forwarding services down to a more affordable cost, and allows small businesses to gain access to extra service options like liftgates and inside pickup and delivery, all without having to pay a hefty price for unused space .
Disadvantages of Choosing LTL Shipping
One of the biggest disadvantages of LTL shipping is the amount of time it takes to deliver goods. Besides the initial wait period for the truck to be filled up, it also takes longer to organize shipments, plan out routes, and prepare packaging. Although shipments in the same vehicle will be headed towards destinations that are all in close vicinity, the truck is still going to multiple locations, which further delays freight arrival.
There are also uncontrollable factors that may increase delivery time. Elements such as unforeseen weather changes and slow traffic already hinder direct deliveries, but much more for LTL shipments, as they also may face extra delays at load-off locations.
With multiple stops and transfers, LTL shipping involves much more handling of goods than FTL, therefore increasing risk . Forklifts, unstable stacking of packages, and shifting in delivery are just some examples of how cargo can be damaged in transit. The longer a package spends in the truck, the more it experiences external handling, which can lead to damaged or lost freight.
What About FTL Shipping?
FTL is an acronym for Full Truck Load, which is a shipping mode where one truck carries one exclusive shipment. Even if your cargo does not occupy the entire space of the truck, the journey is allocated to that one shipment. If your shipment is large enough to fill, or nearly fill up one shipping container, FTL trucking may be a better choice than LTL.
Advantages of of Choosing FTL Shipping
Cost Effective for Large Shipments
FTL shipping is usually utilized when companies need to transport ten or more pallets. If companies have a large shipment, FTL shipping can be more cost effective in the long run over LTL freight. Instead of spending extra money on multiple LTL shipments, it is less expensive to collect enough freight to fill a truckload, and ship one single FTL shipment.
Shipping by FTL usually takes less time than LTL for a multitude of reasons. You do not have to wait and coordinate your shipping plans with other companies, which allows for more precise planning and time management. Handling times are also reduced, which gets more trucks on the road in a more timely manner. The shipping route itself is also less complicated, and more direct, as the shipment only has one final destination to reach. If you are short on time, or shipping perishable goods, FTL could be a more viable option for you.
From leaving its original location to arriving at the destination, FTL shipments stay on the same truck through the entire transportation process, and they do not have to be subjected to the needs of other shipments in the vehicle. This minimizes the chances of damages and disruptions in transit, which is beneficial for fragile and expensive freight. FTL shipping has the lowest possible risks and minimal interference from other cargo.
Disadvantages of Choosing FTL Freight
The main drawback of FTL freight is how much it costs. It comes with much higher shipment costs, especially when there are not enough pallets to fill up an entire truck. It is definitely not cost-effective for shippers with small quantities of freight. They also may not even accept requests for smaller volume shipments.
Carriers may also not be able to provide additional services that LTL freight can. Handling services at pick up and delivery will not be accessible, even with its high cost. FTL also has the tendency to be less flexible when it comes to cargo movement. If a truck breaks down, all the cargo in the truck are then stranded until companies can dispatch help. But with a shortage of drivers, the help may take a while to arrive.
How Should You Choose?
The best way to find out which trucking option is the better option for your business is to do research. Get freight quotes from multiple freight companies in order to find the best rate for the services you need, and choose the one that fits your business needs. If you need help with the freight quote process, we have an article on How to Ask For a Freight Quote.
How SFI Can Help
You can always contact SFI directly through our online form for more information. As one of the world’s leading shipping and transportation companies,, we use our dedicated networks and developed logistical systems to provide high quality freight solutions for companies throughout the globe.