Less than truckload or LTL shipping means a single load doesn’t fill the trailer. Another small load to the same or a different location fills the rest of the space.
LTL shipping carriers may use a smaller “hot shot” trailer and a pickup or a van instead of a semi truck and standard freight equipment.
A full truckload (FTL) carrier may work with LTL freight by using a consolidation and distribution center called a breakbulk facility.
This can provide a cost savings for the shipper. Here’s how:
Let’s say a North Carolina shipper can fill a truck with many small shipments headed for several western states. An FTL carrier will move the full load to a breakbulk facility in a central location close to the end points. The breakbulk facility will sort out LTL loads for transport to the final destinations.
Savings occurs because the freight travels fewer overall miles with the FTL carrier, using only the fuel required for that truck to the breakbulk facility. If you use several LTL carriers, they travel more total miles and may all be traveling the exact same route before turning off to final destinations. This multiplies fuel cost.
Another benefit is reduced damage from loading/unloading to accommodate second and third small loads along the route. All of the freight travels together until it reaches the breakbulk distribution facility. This can also reduce time and the incidence of loss or theft.