Demystify the FTL vs. LTL Decision

Company News, Truckload

The Pros and Cons of Full Truckload Shipping

Tired of bracing yourself for the capacity crunch? You’re not alone. Regulatory mandates, driver shortages and logistics disruptors are well known within the industry. This has left many shippers and carriers looking for ways to be proactive.

However, safeguarding against the looming capacity crisis is about more than just locking down a truck. It’s about selecting the most efficient transportation mode. Shippers that have traditionally used less-than-truckload (LTL) service are now considering full truckload (FTL) as an option.

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What qualifies as FTL freight?

As the name implies, a full truckload shipment fills a truck. What does that mean in practical terms? Unlike LTL shipments that allow shippers to pay only for the trailer space they need, FTL freight needs the entire space and/or weight limits of a 48’ or 53’ trailer. Typically, truckload is reserved for freight that consists of more than 10 pallets or weighs more than 15,000 pounds.

Is FTL the right mode for you?

FTL and LTL shipments can both add efficiencies to your supply chain, depending upon factors such as freight volume and type. Get to know the pros and cons of full truckload, so you can make a more informed business decision.

The Pros

In addition to volume requirements, truckload can be an attractive option due to:

 

Cost efficiency Cost efficiency – With FTL shipping, you pay by the mile as opposed to weight or freight class. If you have the volume, FTL can save you money. If you don’t, it won’t.
Less handling Less handling – With freight traveling direct from point A to point B, truckload offers less handling, which means fewer potential freight damages.
Increased security Increased security – If you have a high-value shipment that is vulnerable to theft (think pharmaceuticals, electronics or defense goods), FTL shipping eliminates the truck transfers that could pose a security risk.
Dedicated service Dedicated service – As capacity gets tighter, some shippers are willing to pay to keep a vehicle on standby. This option makes sense in certain healthcare and manufacturing verticals where the ability to ship freight immediately is essential.

 

The Cons

Is truckload starting to sound too good to be true? Remember, the decision is based on your circumstances. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

 

Overall cost Overall cost – Naturally securing an entire truck costs more outright than paying for trailer space. If you don’t have the volume or if you are able to split up your load, LTL shipping will likely be more affordable.
Inconsistent experience Inconsistent experience – As the capacity crunch continues, truckload is becoming highly fragmented. Anyone with a CDL, truck and trailer can provide the service. Unless you have a relationship with a trusted carrier, your experience may vary.
Spot market concerns Spot market concerns – If you’re seeking a carrier for a one-time haul, you’re facing spot market complexities. Your rate could change depending on the daily shifts in capacity, weather and diesel prices.

 

The good, the bad, the informed


So, now you know the basic ins and outs of FTL shipping. If you feel like this mode matches up with your needs, just be aware that there are even more factors to consider. Stay on top of seasonal trends, such as agricultural booms and holiday uptick, that can impact truckload capacity and cost.

Also, just having up-to-date knowledge on which carriers specialize in what types of freight can go a long way in ensuring that you secure the most efficient solution as the capacity crunch continues to tighten.

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