For all those eclectic, one-of-a-kind items you’ve sold online, from the designed lamp gracing side tables to the unique artisanal craft products that have charmed hundreds, Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping has often been the invisible force behind their journey.

LTL is the freight forwarding method of combining shipments, leveraging central hubs, and utilising smaller delivery vehicles to ensure every inch of space is maximised to move goods efficiently without always filling an entire truck.

For eCommerce businesses and online sellers, understanding LTL is similar to holding the golden key to cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and efficient shipping. Let’s delve deeper into the importance of Less Than Truckload shipping in this blog post.



Understanding Less-Than-Truckload Shipping

As the name suggests, Less-Than-Truckload shipping caters to shipments that don’t fill up an entire truck. Multiple shippers’ items are packed together in a single truck, each occupying a portion of the space.

This method is especially useful for businesses with orders too large for parcel shipping but too small to justify the cost of a full truck. It’s the logistics equivalent of carpooling, where sharing the journey (or, in this case, truck space) leads to cost savings and enhanced efficiency.

For example, consider a local bookstore that orders a limited number of highly anticipated novels. While a larger chain might go for Full Truckload shipping, bringing in thousands of copies, the quaint bookstore down the lane might only need a few hundred. LTL shipping ensures they get their stock fresh off the press without the high cost of transporting them in a half-empty truck.

Food suppliers catering to niche markets can benefit from LTL shipping, too. For example, an organic tea seller sourcing rare blends from various locations can use LTL to combine shipments and ensure timely and careful delivery to local shops.

Factors that Determine LTL Shipping Rates

Origin and Destination Dynamics

Distance Between Pick-up and Delivery Points: Naturally, the farther a shipment has to travel, the higher the cost. This is due to the increased fuel usage, driver’s time, and wear and tear on the vehicle. It’s not just about mileage but also about the transit times and route efficiency.

Accessibility of Locations: Deliveries in urban areas might encounter challenges such as traffic congestion and limited parking, potentially increasing costs. Conversely, rural deliveries might mean longer distances between stops. Each has its own set of challenges and implications on cost.

Geographical Constraints: Mountainous terrains, narrow roads, or regions with frequent adverse weather conditions can add to the complexity and, by extension, the cost of LTL shipments.

Regional Variabilities

Infrastructure and Local Regulations: A region with well-maintained roads and bridges might offer smoother transportation than areas with outdated infrastructure. Moreover, different localities might have varying trucking regulations, tolls, or taxes, directly influencing shipping rates.

Seasonal Considerations: Certain routes become challenging, if not impassable, during specific seasons. For instance, winter might bring about snowy conditions requiring special equipment or alternative routes, thus affecting cost.


Size and Volume: A shipment’s physical space on a truck significantly impacts the rate. Larger, bulkier shipments might increase the cost due to the reduced space available for other shipments.

Weight: Heavier shipments often mean higher costs. The weight not only affects the truck’s fuel efficiency but can also determine the type of vehicle required, especially if specialised equipment or handling is needed.

Packaging and Stacking Potential: Efficient packaging can allow more goods to be loaded onto a truck, optimising space. The ability to safely stack shipments can also reduce the occupied volume, potentially lowering costs.


Ground Transport: Road conditions, tolls, and the type of vehicle used can all impact rates. For instance, specialised trucks equipped for refrigeration or hazardous materials will naturally have different cost structures than standard cargo trucks.

Intermodal Transportation: This involves using multiple modes of transport, such as combining truck and rail. While it can offer cost efficiencies, it also comes with challenges, like ensuring timely transfers and mitigating potential damages.


General Cargo: This refers to standard, non-specialised goods. The costs here serve as a baseline, with specialised goods often incurring additional fees.

Hazardous Materials: Shipping potentially dangerous materials necessitates special precautions, equipment, and certifications, all of which can add to the cost.

Perishable Goods: Items that must be delivered promptly or require temperature-controlled environments come with added costs. Ensuring the integrity and freshness of these products is paramount, and the necessary equipment and handling are reflected in the rates.

Fragile or High-Value Items: Shipments that require special care or are of significant value often need extra insurance. Precautions for handling to prevent damages can also affect the overall cost.

Benefits of LTL Shipping

Cost Savings

Every business looks for cost-efficient methods to transport goods without compromising on quality. LTL shipping stands out for its distinct advantage in this aspect. One of the cornerstones of its appeal lies in space efficiency. Instead of booking an entire truck and bearing the full expense, businesses can tap into LTL shipping, paying only for the space their goods occupy.

Environmental Impact

Beyond the financial aspects, LTL shipping also scores points for its positive environmental impact. Through space optimisation, the principle of maximising truck space, LTL shipping inherently ensures that fewer trips are made. Fewer trips translate to reduced fuel consumption.

Tracking and Visibility

In our modern digital age, tracking and visibility are essential. LTL shipping excels in this area with the integration of real-time tracking tools. No longer do businesses need to remain in the dark about the whereabouts of their shipments. Advanced technologies now allow for instantaneous tracking and monitoring, keeping shippers in the loop every step of the way.

Flexibility and Scalability

One of the less heralded but equally vital benefits of LTL shipping is its inherent flexibility and scalability. As businesses grow, their shipping needs can fluctuate. Today, they might need to send a couple of pallets, but tomorrow, it might be a larger consignment. LTL shipping doesn’t pigeonhole businesses into rigid structures but offers the flexibility to adjust according to varying shipment sizes.

Reduced Risk of Damage

Since shipments are typically palletised in LTL shipping, they tend to be better protected than loose items in larger containers. Moreover, as LTL shipments often go through rigorous sorting processes at various hubs, they are handled with extra care to ensure efficient and safe transportation.

The LTL Shipping Process Explained

Let’s delve into how the LTL shipment works in overall freight distribution management:


This is where it all begins. Shippers schedule their shipment pickups, ensuring all freight details, including dimensions and weight, are accurate. At this stage, the local terminal plays a crucial role, acting as the collection point before the shipment is forwarded to the central hub.

Transit to Hub

En route to the hub, shipments are consolidated. This is where the real magic of LTL shines, as goods from multiple shippers come together, optimising space and ensuring cost-effectiveness.

The central hub, in this framework, is instrumental. It not only determines the best and most efficient routes but also ensures reduced costs through optimsed consolidation.

Sorting at the Hub

Once shipments arrive at the hub, they undergo a rigorous sorting process. Based on final destinations, they’re organised and dispatched. Advanced technologies, combined with the deft hands and experience of skilled labour, make this process smooth and efficient.

Transit from Hub to Delivery Destination

Post sorting, shipments embark on their journey to local or regional terminals nearest to their final drop-off points. While en route, there may be various touch points or stops, depending on the intricacies of the shipment’s journey.

Final Delivery

This is the last leg. Coordination with recipients ensures that deliveries are smooth, minimising any potential hiccups. Once the shipment arrives, care is taken to handle the goods, ensuring they remain in pristine condition, reflecting the trust placed by shippers in the LTL process.





As businesses expand their horizons, reaching customers in far-flung locales, the nuances of shipping can’t be overlooked. Here, Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping with the help of a third-party logistics provider will emerge as a strategic game-changer.

As more and more eCommerce businesses pivot to different supply chain models, the freight industry is set to see an exponential rise in LTL shipments. Why? Because it’s about optimising resources, reducing carbon footprints, and, above all, maximising profits.

This is your moment of introspection for all the e-commerce moguls out there. Evaluate your shipping needs, crunch those numbers, and you might find that LTL is an option to streamline operations and delight customers.


What is the difference between FTL and LTL?

The primary freight shipping methods are FTL (Full Truckload) and LTL (Less Than Truckload). FTL is used when the entire space of a truck is required for a single shipment, making it ideal for large quantities. In contrast, LTL consolidates multiple smaller shipments from various shippers into a single truck, optimising space and cost for shipments that don’t need a full truck.

While FTL shipments typically move directly from pick-up to delivery, LTL shipments may pass through multiple hubs before reaching their final destination.

How much does LTL shipping cost?

LTL shipping typically starts at around $50 per hundred pounds. For shipments in the range of 500 – 999 pounds, the rate decreases to approximately $40 per hundred pounds. Heavier shipments can avail of even larger discounts. It’s essential to note that other factors, such as distance and location, can also influence these rates.

Which is cheaper, LTL or FTL?

LTL (Less Than Truckload) shipping is typically cheaper than FTL (Full Truckload) for smaller shipments, as you only pay for the space you use. However, for larger shipments that occupy most or all of a truck, FTL can be more cost-effective. Businesses must evaluate their shipment size and frequency to determine the most cost-efficient option.

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