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LTL 101 – the Basics

Sometimes, a shipment is too large to send with a parcel service, like Canada post, but way too small to fill a standard truck trailer. In fact, the cost of this shipment as a parcel or truckload would be insanely high because it’s not ideal for either type of providers. In this case, LTL shipping is ideal.

LTL is an acronym for “less than truckload” and refers to those shipments that are less than a truckload. They don’t require the space that a standard truck provides because of their size or weight.


Using an LTL carrier is a lot more cost-effective in this case. Shipments that weight less than 10 thousand pounds or have between 1 and 6 pallets are a good match for LTL. There are different kinds of LTL shipments: standard LTL, larger LTL, refrigerated LTL, expedited LTL (for faster than standard delivery), and guaranteed LTL (where the delivery date is agreed upon).

An LTL shipment is managed differently than a standard truckload shipment. With a standard shipment, the load is picked up and delivered in the same trailer by the same driver. In contrast, an LTL will usually be driven by multiple drivers and loaded from one trailer to another as it progresses along to the final destination. Another difference is that fact that many different LTL shipments are combined to fill one trailer. This makes sense and is really the only way to ensure profitability.

As soon as a pickup driver has filled a trailer, he returns to his point of origin. Here, his trailer is unloaded and those items are combined with shipments from other trailers. Eventually, the items will end up at a delivery terminal. When a trailer reaches a delivery terminal, it’s unloaded and reloaded onto different trucks for localized deliveries to take over.

Naturally, due to this loading and unloading procedure that LTL items go through, the delivery times are longer than standard shipments.

LTL costs are based on the weight of the shipment, how much space the shipment takes up in a trailer, the distance the shipment is moving, and the classification of the items being shipped.

A logistics company will be able to provide cost savings compared to working directly with LTL carriers. Because of the large volume of shipments combined, a logistics company is able to secure rates that are more competitive than working directly with an LTL carrier.

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