Home » Freight Shipping Blog » Freight How-To's » What is Full Truckload Shipping (FTL)?

What is Full Truckload Shipping (FTL)?

As its name suggests, FTL shipping involves using a full truckload (or trailer) to transport shipments (meaning that there are no other deliveries or pickups on the truck).

Companies who use FTL typically do so for large-scale deliveries, but it is possible to utilize this type of shipping for smaller orders as well.

If you ship large items regularly and are looking for a way to cut costs on your next shipment, FTL shipping might be the right choice for you. 

Here's what it is, how it works, and when it might be right for you.

What is FTL Shipping?

If you're a business owner, chances are you've heard the term FTL multiple times. But what is FTL freight, exactly? How is it different from other types of freight shipping services, and how can it help your business?

FTL shipping is the process of transporting an entire truckload of goods with one carrier—often a reefer or a dry van—from a single location to another.

Though there are no set rules on the size of a shipment that qualifies for FTL shipping, most businesses choose to use this method when they need to move ten or more pallets, with a weight of 15,000 pounds or more.

This is because larger shipments—which are often more expensive to ship with LTL carriers, given the weight—may qualify for discounts given by FTL carriers.

In most cases, FTL is ideal for companies that have bulk shipments coming from one location and going to one location within a short timeframe. 

Differences Between FTL & LTL Shipping

In contrast to FTL, less than truckload (LTL) shipments are when multiple shippers’ loads are delivered on the same trailer.

This means that several LTL shipments are combined into one truck to fill it as near to capacity as possible, so you technically have many companies' goods riding in one trailer.

While this is fine for lighter-weight shipments, sometimes you'll need something larger. This is where FTL shipping comes in.

LTL carriers tend to have a maximum weight restriction of 10,000 pounds in most cases—though a few LTL shippers can handle up to 20,000 pounds—while FTL carriers can handle much heavier loads. 

FTL and LTL fit different shipping needs so it's important to choose wisely. We go over the key differences to consider below:

FTL shipments are more expensive upfront

The biggest difference between LTL and FTL is the upfront cost. Because you are paying for a full truck, the total price for your FTL shipment will generally be higher than if you were to ship with an LTL carrier. 

With LTL shipments, you only have to pay for the space you are using, rather than needing to pay for a full truck that is not filled.

This makes LTL more profitable and cost-effective if your items weigh less than 10,000 pounds.

If you can fill up a truck to capacity, however, you will usually save money with FTL shipping because you're paying for a full truck rather than individual spaces.

If your shipment weighs more than 10,000 pounds, then FTL is the most cost-effective method of shipping.

FTL carrier transit times are easier to schedule

Since FTL shippers are transporting a single load from start to finish, their transit times tend to be much more predictable.

In most cases, you will have a solid delivery date since the carrier is aiming to deliver your shipment as soon as possible.

In contrast, LTL carriers might make several stops along the way and could take anywhere from a few days to a week to deliver your shipment. 

While you can usually expect a solid delivery date with FTL shipping, LTL carriers have very flexible transit times.

This means that if you need to meet a certain deadline, you should ensure that your LTL carrier can give you a firm delivery date before going through with the shipment.

However, if flexibility is not an issue for your business, then knowing that you have a set delivery time is better than unpredictable transit times.

As always, it's important to do your research before shipping with either method.

While the benefits of LTL and FTL both have their respective pros and cons, it is up to you to decide which approach works best for your business. 

FTL shipments are handled less

FTL shipments are handled less than LTL shipments, which means your products are exposed to damage less frequently.

Your shipper will be the only one handling your shipment, which means there's no chance of goods being mishandled if you ship with FTL.

With LTL shipments, your products could be moved several times before they reach their final destination. This puts them at a greater risk for damage than an FTL shipment because there are more opportunities for mishandling. 

Handling is one of the biggest factors in transit time and cost, so FTL is ideal for companies who are looking to ship items that are sensitive or fragile.

Related: What is Partial Truckload Shipping (PTL)?

Benefits of Full Truckload Shipping

Let's go over the benefits of FTL shipping:

Faster, more predictable transit times

Since FTL carriers do not have to make multiple stops and unload your shipment several times, they can instead deliver your goods in a single trip.

This means you'll get a much faster and more predictable delivery time than with LTL shipping. 

Cost-effective for larger loads

The larger your shipment is by weight or size, the more money you will save with FTL shipping.

You will save money because you are paying for a full truck rather than individual spaces, which means your cost per pound is vastly lower. 

Since FTL carriers often have larger trucks with many trailers in their fleet, they can transport much larger shipments than an LTL carrier could feasibly handle.

This means that businesses who need to ship massive items or huge volume orders will find that FTL shipping is their best option, as the higher upfront costs of FTL shipping are offset by the convenience of moving larger shipments in fewer trips.

Reduced risk of damage

With FTL shipments, the carrier will be moving your items less distance and fewer times before they arrive.

This reduces the risk of mishandling and thus damage to your shipment.

Faster shipments

FTL shipping generally takes faster because your shipment is traveling as quickly as possible from point A to B with as little handling as possible. 

This is in contrast to LTL shipments, which may pass through several stops and unloads along the way.

As we mentioned above, this slows transit time and increases the risk of damage since there are more opportunities for mishandling. 

Full Truckload Shipping or FTL is a method of transporting goods where the truckload is completely filled instead of just part of it.

This means that your products will be loaded and unloaded less since they can be transferred in one go. 

This results in shorter transit times while costing less money because you pay for a full truck rather than individual spaces.

If you want to ship large or heavy items, this method is ideal for you since your shipment can be moved as quickly as possible and with minimal risk of mishandling.

See how much time and money you'll save by having our pros help manage your freight.