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Less Than Truckload: A Quick Overview

If you’re new to Less Than Truckload shipping you’ve come to the right place. The freight industry is a big pie and Less Than Truckload (LTL) is just one slice. It’s not exactly UPS or Fedex. Not exactly post office shipping. And not exactly full truckload shipping. LTL has its own set of rules, practices, and quotes.

If you’re going to be getting LTL quotes, and setting up LTL shipments, there are some things that you need to know. This introductory blog will get you the basic information you need to get started with less than truckload shipping.

We’ll discuss the freight industry, less than truckload, the difference between freight carriers and freight brokers, and the life of an LTL shipment. We’ll also briefly touch on freight class, and what you’ll need to get a less than truckload quote.

less than truckload  

The Freight Industry

Freight shipping is a global, multi-billion dollar industry based around the movement of goods by commercial carriers. These goods can be transported via shipping container (boat), plane, train, or truck. At FreightPros we specialize in the “truck” side of things. Freight transportation via truck can be broken into two categories: Less Than Truckload and Full Truckload.

This blog will deal with LTL, but we have FreightPros brokers that are professionals in the full truckload system, so if you’re looking for full truckload quotes we can help there too. But as for now, let’s focus on Less Than Truckload Shipping, and the difference between carriers and brokers.

Carriers vs Brokers

Carriers and brokers are two different things, and they are not interchangeable. A freight carrier is the company that owns and operates the truck. They are made up of drivers, dispatchers, customer service representatives, dock workers, and many more people.

These carriers can be large national carriers, with hundreds of trucks and coverage maps that stretch from coast to coast, or they can be smaller, regional carriers with less manpower, and more specialization.

Brokers (like FreightPros) act as the go-between for customers looking to move freight, and carriers who have the equipment and personnel to do so. Brokers can offer cheaper freight quotes, as well as customer service such as freight tracking, invoice auditing, and easy access to online transportation management systems.

It’s important to remember that brokers like FreightPros do not own trucks, and will not physically be picking up any freight.

Less Than Truckload

Less than truckload is a lot like what it sounds. When you ship LTL, your freight takes up less than a full truck.

A standard LTL shipment will take up 12 square feet of truck space or less. That’s equivalent to six standard pallets, stacked side by side, and not on top of each other. Anything over that will likely require a volume quote from the freight carrier, or an additional fee such as “overlength.”

The life of a regular LTL shipment is linked closely to carrier freight terminals. These terminals are hubs operated by the freight carriers. A shipment is picked up and taken to the origin terminal. From there it is unloaded from the first truck, and loaded on to another truck.

The freight is loaded and unloaded, from terminal to terminal, until it arrives at the destination terminal, where it will be delivered to it’s final location. The pickup location is always called the shipper, while the delivery address will be known as the consignee.


the life of an ltl shipment


Freight Class

Freight class is one of the primary factors when it comes to getting a good LTL freight quote. An item’s freight class is determined either by it’s NMFC number, or by it’s density. This freight class number can range from 50 to 500, with the higher the number, the higher the cost of shipping. If you’re aren’t absolutely sure of your item’s freight class, let your broker handle it.

Check out our freight class blog for more information.

LTL Freight Quotes

You’ll need four pieces of information for every LTL freight quote.

  • The total weight of the shipment, packaging and palleting included.
  • The item’s freight class.
  • The pickup location address.
  • The delivery location address.

Keep in mind that standard LTL shipment’s are B2B, which stands for “business to business” or “dock to dock.” If either shipper or consignee are residences you’ll need pay additional fees. If a shipping dock is not available to easily retrieve the freight from the truck, you’ll also need to pay an additional fee for a liftgate.


Like any big industry, there is a lot to know when it comes to less than truckload freight shipping. Hopefully this blog gave you the confidence and information you need to get started, but as you ship more you’ll want to become more educated about the different services that LTL can offer.

At FreightPros we’ve developed a HUGE database of information through our freight blogs (where you’re reading now) and also through our downloadable Freight Papers. When the time comes, feel free to read and download these informational materials.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our FreightPros are full-service brokers, and we’re always available to help. Happy Shipping!


Logan Theissen

Logan is a Content Marketing Associate at FreightPros in charge of social media and content creation. He has a writing degree from the University of Oklahoma, but lives life on the edge and resides in Longhorn country. He loves Murakami books, Tarantino movies, and Vonnegut books. Lots of books. One day he will own a dog, but first he'll have to get a yard.

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