LESS THAN TRUCKLOAD (LTL)

Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipments typically weigh between 151 and 20,000 lb (68 and 9,072 kg). Less than truckload carriers collect freight from various shippers and consolidate that freight onto enclosed trailers for linehaul to the delivering terminal or to a hub terminal where the freight will be further sorted and consolidated for additional linehauls. In most cases, drivers start the day by loading up and heading out to make deliveries first, then begin making pickups once the trailer has been emptied for return to the terminal for sorting and delivery next day; thus, most pickups are made in the afternoon and most deliveries are performed in the morning.


Pickup/delivery drivers usually have set routes which they travel every day or several times a week, so the driver has an opportunity to develop a rapport with his customers. Once the driver has filled his trailer or completed his assigned route, he returns to his terminal for unloading. The trailer is unloaded and the individual shipments are then weighed and inspected to verify their conformity to the description contained in the accompanying paperwork. All LTL freight is subject to inspection for this purpose, though not all freight is inspected. Next, the freight is loaded onto an outbound trailer which will forward the freight to a breakbulk, a connection, or to the delivering terminal. An LTL shipment may be handled only once while in transit, or it may be handled multiple times before final delivery is accomplished.


Transit times for LTL freight are longer than for FTL. LTL transit times are not directly related only to the distance between shipper and consignee. Instead, LTL transit times are dependent upon the makeup of the network of Terminals and Breakbulks that are operated by a given carrier and that carrier's beyond agents and interline partners. For example, if a shipment is picked up and delivered by the same freight terminal, or if the freight must be sorted and routed only once while in transit, the freight will likely be delivered on the next business day after pickup. If the freight must be sorted and routed more than once, or if more than one linehaul is required for transportation to the delivering terminal, then the transit time will be longer. Also, delivery to beyond points or remote areas will almost always add days to the transit time.


The main advantage to using an LTL carrier is that a shipment may be transported for a fraction of the cost of hiring an entire truck and trailer for an exclusive shipment. Also, a number of accessorial services are available from LTL carriers, which are not typically offered by FTL carriers. These optional services include liftgate service at pickup or delivery, residential (also known as "non-commercial") service at pickup or delivery, inside delivery, notification prior to delivery, freeze protection, and others. These services are usually billed at a predetermined flat fee or for a weight based surcharge calculated as a rate per pound or per hundredweight.