Partial truckload shipping vs less than a truckload

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Partial Truckload Shipping vs. LTL and FTL

The most common types of shipping are FTL (full-truckload) and LTL (less-than-truckload). One of these two options is commonly chosen based upon the shipper’s specific needs regarding what is being shipped, the required transit time, and the cost of shipping. However, there is another option that is used less frequently but may help reduce costs, depending on the requirements of the shipper: PTL (partial truckload). Let’s take a look at all three shipping modes and the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Full truckload shipping refers to a single truck that is loaded with a single company’s freight. Larger companies that frequently ship a large amount of cargo at a time usually use FTL shipping. Shipments are typically 20,000 pounds or more. Full truckload shipping is the most efficient when it comes to transit times, as the truck is loaded in one location and delivered to one location, without any stops in between. However, full truckload shipping is also the costliest of the shipping modes, so it only makes sense if the truck is filled up so as to make the most of fuel, equipment, and labor costs.


Less-than-truckload shipping refers to a single truck that is loaded with freight from several different businesses. By loading a truck with different shipments all heading to the same area, carriers are able to save money on fuel and labor costs and offer reduced rates to shippers. Rates are contingent upon the freight class of the items being shipped. The drawback is that due to multiple stops at various hubs in the “hub-and-spoke” system most LTL carriers use, where cargo is loaded and unloaded and reorganized multiple times, there is a greater danger of damage occurring to a shipment and less efficient and more unpredictable transit times. However, the cost savings and flexibility are significant enough that many small to medium-sized businesses rely on LTL for the majority of their shipping needs.



Partial truckload shipping is a kind of hybrid between FTL and LTL shipping and involves shipments that are too large for less-than-truckload but not large enough for a full truckload. Partial truckload shipments are typically between 6-20 pallets and weigh between 8,000-20,000 pounds. Because of this specific size window for shipments, PTL is not as common as FTL or LTL shipping. However, partial truckload shipments do not require a freight class to secure a rate and involve less handling, which usually results in faster transit times and a lower probability for damage or loss.


When is PTL Right for Me?

Between FTL and LTL – if the size and weight of your freight fall between the options listed above, you may want to consider PTL shipping. While those sizes and weights are typically not enough for a full truckload shipment, they are large enough that the cost of shipping your freight LTL may not result in significant savings and will still be subject to the transit times and additional handling of other LTL shipments.

Low-density freight – if your freight does not weigh a lot but takes up a lot of space, partial truckload may be a better option than LTL due to the increased cost of your shipment’s freight class.

Fragile freight – if your freight is particularly fragile and you are worried about freight damage occurring during handling when shipping LTL, partial truckload may be a better option for you.

PTL and LTL have a lot of crossovers, and for some shipments, either one can be a viable option. There is no blanket answer to whether PTL or LTL should be used if this is the case, but you should decide which to use based on the aspects of your shipment and your priorities as a shipper. The best way to make an informed decision that is right for your shipment is to consult a third-party freight broker that can help you get the most out of your shipping budget. Call the freight experts at Koho and let them help you decide on the best shipping option with the best carrier that will fit your shipping needs.

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