Shipping Truckload vs. Shipping LTL: What’s the Difference?


Shipping Truckload vs. Shipping LTL: What’s the Difference?

With multiple modes of transportation to choose from it can be a hard decision to find the right one for your shipping needs. The two most commonly used modes are truckload (TL) and less than truckload (LTL). They may seem similar, but they have some significant differences. Whether you have only used one mode and are thinking about expanding to another or maybe your business is growing and you are looking at a different shipping option, Trinity Logistics can help you find the best solution for your shipping needs.


Truckload: Shipments moving full truckload will be the only shipment on that trailer. Once the shipment is picked up at the shipper’s location the freight will not be moved off the trailer until it reaches the consignee. Transit time with this mode tends to be shorter and more controllable since the freight remains on the trailer and will only be handled by a single carrier.

LTL: This mode allows multiple shipments from different shippers to be on one trailer. The shipper is essentially sharing the trailer with other shippers. Freight will move through several different terminals and be taken on and off the trailer multiple times. Transit time will vary due to different factors such as weather, higher freight volume, or assessorials that may require more time at either the shipper or receiver (delivery appointments, liftgate, etc.)


Truckload: Shipments ranging from 24 to 30 pallets depending on trailer and pallet size. The weight of a truckload shipment can vary drastically between light shipments around 5,000 pounds to heavier capacity loads around 45,000 pounds.

LTL: Shipments that are 1-10 pallets and generally under 20,000 pounds. There are different rate options depending on the size of the shipment. If a shipment consists of 6 pallets and/or weighs over 5,000 pounds this may qualify for spot quoting, which can be more cost effective in some cases.


Truckload: When shipping truckload, you have use of the full trailer, even if the freight does not take up the entire trailer space. The cost of shipping truckload completely depends on the market. Unless there is an arranged contract with a carrier, pricing can change and fluctuate with the market and capacity.

Rates on truckload vary on some constantly changing factors: shipment weight, fuel costs, different seasons, and lane. Trinity Logistics works with our carrier partners through phone, email, or digital freight matching applications to find the best rates for our customers.

LTL: Cost tends to be the biggest difference between LTL and Truckload. Unlike truckload, the cost per shipment has many different variables that determine the LTL rate. LTL shipping is regulated by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), which classifies and assigns an NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification) code to different freight commodities. These codes greatly impact an LTL rate and they indicate the commodity’s density, liability, and ease of transport.

With LTL shipments the rate is determined by the origin and destination cities, states, and zip codes, the freight’s classification(s), number of pallets, pallet dimensions, and total weight. If any additional services (accessorials) are needed those will each have an additional fee added to the final rate. For example, if a shipment is delivering to a construction site (limited access delivery) and a liftgate is needed at the time of delivery a carrier would charge an additional fee for each service.


Truckload: Reefer trailers are fairly common and readily available. In general, modern temperature-controlled trailers can range from below zero to 70 degrees. Since it’s only your freight on the trailer, the shipment can move on the schedule and temperature you need. Besides temperature monitoring and rate differences, refrigerated shipments aren’t all that different from a dry truckload shipment.

LTL: Refrigerated LTL shipments are a bit different than dry LTL shipments. Most reefer LTL carriers run on strict schedules that are based on certain lanes and temperatures. For example, a refrigerated LTL carrier might pick up in Los Angeles on Thursdays and Fridays only, and may only run at 45-50 degrees. Multiple customers’ freight is shared on a single reefer LTL trailer with similar temperature ranges to maximize efficiencies for the carrier since a lot of carriers operate on appointment schedules that are set and routed a day or more in advance. This can make finding an available reefer LTL carrier difficult at times, especially on short notice. If you’re an LTL shipper who ships temperature-controlled freight and you have the potential to size up to truckload, this is a situation where it could be a great benefit for you to do so.



  • Dedicated truck for only your freight
  • Time sensitive and high value freight
  • Less handling of freight


  • Cost effective option for freight that does not require a full trailer
  • Flexibility with shipping and delivery times
  • More service options (residential delivery, inside pickup and/or delivery, liftgate etc.)


LTL and Truckload both have their advantages. The best option for your freight depends on your needs, freight volume, budget, frequency, and deadlines.

Our LTL experts can answer any additional questions you may have and help find the right mode for your shipping needs.



Author: Christine Morris