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LTL (Less than Truckload) shipping is the term used to describe the condition whenever the trailer is not filled to capacity by a single shipper and the additional space is used to transport freight by another shipper . The alternative to LTL trucking companies are parcel carriers or full truckload carriers. Parcel carriers usually handle small packages and freight that can be broken down in to units less than 150 pounds (68 kg).
Full truckload carriers move freight that is loaded into a semi-trailer. Semi-trailers are typically between 26 and 53 feet (7.92 and 16.15 m) and therefore require a substantial amount of freight to make such transportation economical.
Shippers with enough volume of LTL freight may choose to use a full truckload carrier to move the freight directly to a break-bulk facility of an LTL carrier. For example, a North Carolina shipper with a large quantity of shipments bound for Western US States (for example, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) may be able to realize significant cost savings by having a FTL carrier, known as a line-haul carrier, transport the freight to a break-bulk facility in a central location near the ultimate destination of the freight (in this example, delivery to a break-bulk facility in California for parceling out into LTL lots for transport to the final destinations).
The use of an FTL carrier to transport this freight generally provides an overall cost savings because the freight will travel fewer miles in the FTL carrier’s network, as well as a reduced overall fuel cost. One FTL carrier travels the distance to the break-bulk facility for a single carrier’s price while using only the fuel required for that FTL truck, vs. several LTL carriers at each carrier’s price, each covering some of the same path to the final destinations and each using the fuel required for each one of the LTL trucks.
A further benefit is realized in both loading cost and product damage because the freight will not need to be unloaded and reloaded as many times. Additionally, this reduces the incidence of loss and the opportunity for pilfering or theft, because all of the freight travels together and is not broken down into LTL loads until it reaches the break-bulk distribution facility.