The freight term "LTL" stands for Less Than Truckload

Published Nov 27, 2022, 2:14:14 PM UTC
by Phil Lumbroso
Filed under: · General  ·

A standard 48 foot trailer will typically have space to haul 24 standards sized pallets of freight, up to roughly 44,000 lbs. Shipments containing significantly less freight that those quantities, will generally fall under the LTL category. 

Trucking companies will typically discount the shipping rate based on the amount of space used in the truck, as they can then accept more freight from other sources to fill up the truck, mostly being delivered in the same vicinity or on route to final destination. Carrier will generally make more profit by filling up a given truck with a mix of LTL freight, as opposed to a full truck load.

Operating a trucking company that offers the capacity to move LTL shipments, will most often necessitate the use of a warehouse. Just as the trucks picking up the freight need to optimize their pick up routes, the trucks delivering to final destinations will need to use optimized routes as well. This is where unloading and reloading at a warehouse becomes vital.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, a given shipper may not want any other freight in the truck, in which case the LTL shipment would be charged as a full load. 

More commonly, a truck may have a smaller number of shipments on it, in which case they can pick them up on route. This is more common with carriers picking up backhauls, in which case they’ll often pick up and deliver multiple shipments on route to their home base, thereby maximizing the profit on the return trip by avoiding to drive empty miles (deadheading).

Lastly, the closely related term LCL, refers to same concept, except using containers instead of truck trailers.