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FTL and LTL transportation: What is the difference between transportation services of 3PL providers?

Posted by oleg on 26.08.2021
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FTL and LTL transportation: What is the difference between transportation services of 3PL providers?

Road transportation is one of the most popular logistics services, as customers’ satisfaction and supply chain stability depend on how quickly and qualitatively goods are transported. 

It’s not always profitable for companies to use their transport. A business needs to buy motor carriers and keep them under constant control of technical conditions. Moreover, companies also have to hire drivers and pay them monthly. 

To avoid additional costs, a company can order transportation services from logistics providers. There are two options available: FTL or LTL transportation. 

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In this article, WareTeka explains what these abbreviations mean, the differences between LTL and FTL, and what 3PLs provide LTL/FTL services in Ukraine.

What do the abbreviations FTL and LTL mean?

The abbreviation FTL from English stands for “Full Truck Load”, which means “Fully loaded truck”. In simple words, FTL transportation means loading a vehicle up to the maximum permissible weight. FTL transportation is used when it is necessary to transport large consignments of goods exclusively from one customer.

A 3PL provider provides its clients with vehicles that can transport freight up to several tens of tons, and even develop optimal routes. Both outsourced transport and rented trucks can be used. The main advantage of FTL transportation is delivery speed. Transport is loaded once and immediately sent to the end customer.

The abbreviation LTL stands for “Less than Truck Load”. Thus, LTL transportation differs from FTL in that the vehicle is loaded with small consignments of goods from different customers.

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The customer pays only for the space in a truck, not for the whole vehicle. The point is that here the freight of several customers is transported. Therefore, the transportation costs are shared among all clients. After the goods are collected from all customers and moved to temporary storage, warehouse workers sort, consolidate and load them into one truck. He arrives at the departure point, where the goods can be picked up directly at the warehouse or ordered transportation to the final point.

In simple terms, FTL implies that a truck will deliver freight only from one customer. At the same time, LTL transportation means that a truck is loaded with goods from different customers.

FTL transportation features: pros and cons

FTL transportation is freight shipping by an individual truck from its starting point to the discharge point. A peculiarity is a fact that the whole vehicle is used to transport freight from one customer. Generally, large quantities of goods are transported, but the whole truck is rented, without taking into account the volume of the truckload.

Advantages of FTL transportation

  • Minimum delivery time. FTL means loading a vehicle with a large batch of goods only once. The truck does not collect products at other points but immediately goes to the warehouse. This significantly saves delivery time.
  • Choosing the best mode of transport. 3PLs own different vehicles. The customer chooses a truck according to different characteristics such as tonnage, body type, etc.
  • Transportation of special types of freight. If you need to transport goods with non-standard dimensions or dangerous goods, then FTL is the only solution. One type of product is transported in one truck, which cannot have a detrimental effect on other goods. In addition, the freight does not have to meet certain dimensional requirements. The main thing is that it should be placed in the car body.

Thus FTL transports are advantageous for companies that work with large batches, oversized or dangerous goods. It is also a good option if it is important to deliver the freight quickly to the final point. 

Disadvantages of FTL transportation

This type of freight transportation is suitable only for large consignments, for small batches this service is unprofitable. It is also not cost-effective to rent small vehicles, even when they are fully loaded, because the higher the volume of the car body, the cheaper it is to transport a particular item. In addition, special unloading equipment must be available at the discharge point. Although sealing of the truck body with freight inside is part of the service, the probability of goods losses due to traffic accidents or robbery remains. Road transport is always slower than air traffic, and trucks are often subject to restrictions on certain sections of the road.

The FTL transportation cost depends on the distance, fuel consumption, or truck capacity, type of body. The last factor depends on the freight type. Thus, if the goods need protection from sediments, dust, and wind, a tented body will be suitable. The insulated body is suitable for maintaining temperature during transportation. The refrigerator body is suitable for the transportation of goods that must be stored at a certain temperature up to -15 °C.

LTL transportation features: pros and cons

LTL is a type of freight transportation when shipments from different customers are consolidated in a single truck. This type of service is also called less-than-truckload shipping or less than load.

The process of LTL transportation takes place in such a way. After receiving an order for transportation, the logistics provider takes the goods from the customer and delivers them to the warehouse. There, the freight is consolidated and marked. Then it is placed with other goods that are already prepared for the shipment. According to a predetermined schedule, all the goods are loaded onto the vehicle and transported to their destination. The freight is then placed in a consolidation warehouse for delivery to the end consumer.

Advantages of LTL transportation

  • Cost minimization. Unlike FTL, in LTL transportation only the place occupied by the freight is paid, and not the entire vehicle. This greatly reduces the transportation cost.
  • Choice of delivery options. Goods may be delivered to a specified address, not necessarily at a particular delivery point or in a warehouse. It is also possible to arrange delivery by a courier.
  • A logistics provider takes care of all transportation issues. A customer does not select the vehicle or carry out loading and unloading, he only has to indicate the dimensions and type of freight. A 3PL organizes the whole process of goods transportation. In addition, he can provide additional services — sending a notification to customers, returns processing, working with product spoilage, etc.

As practice shows, most Ukrainian companies choose LTL transportation. This service significantly reduces transportation costs.

Disadvantages of LTL transportation

The main drawback of LTL is slow delivery. The transport is moving according to a certain schedule, and if the customer does not have time to deliver the freight before its departure, he has to wait for the next car. In addition, the route may pass through warehouses for additional loading or unloading. This also has an impact on long transportation time.

The cost of LTL depends on the distance and complexity of the route, dimensions and weight, freight type, as well as the need for additional services. In addition, some 3PLs set a fixed minimum transportation cost.

Comparison of FTL and LTL: what to choose?

Traditionally, FTL is considered to be beneficial for businesses that transport large batches, while LTL is the optimal solution for smaller companies. But that is not the only difference. Each type of transportation has its peculiarities to consider.

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The freight appearance is of little importance for FTL transportation. The most important thing is that the goods can be easily placed on the vehicle and do not exceed the maximum permissible weight. Delivery speed is the priority for full truckload transportation. Delays can only be caused by breakdowns or road restrictions.

For small and medium-sized businesses LTL transportation is the optimal solution in most cases. As a rule, such companies are not prepared to pay for the rental of an entire truck, so they avoid significant transportation costs. However, the goods must be packed in a special way to be accepted by a 3PL and not damaged during transportation. In addition, it may be necessary to pay for additional services of the logistics provider. Another important point is that the delivery time may be delayed. Since goods are collected from different customers, the delivery may take longer than expected.

We have prepared a table with recommendations on which type of transportation to choose in what cases.

Shipment of over 15 pallets at one timeShipment of 15 pallets and less
Fragile freightFreight is sturdy and/or properly packaged
Firm delivery appointmentsDelivery time is more flexible
The most important thing — to deliver freight on time The most important thing — to save money on freight transportation

In transportation logistics, LTL and FTL occupy their specific niches and meet different business needs. Each type of transportation has its pros and cons. Therefore, if experienced shippers and carriers want to save and get maximum efficiency, they will use both LTL and FTL.

Which companies are involved in LTL-FTL transportation in Ukraine?

The popularity and demand for freight transportation services from logistics companies are constantly increasing. This happens due to the dynamic development of trade relations, the eCommerce segment growth, the need for domestic and international exchange of ready products and raw materials. It may be disadvantageous for small and medium-sized businesses to have their vehicle fleet for freight transportation and therefore they apply 3PLs for this service.

However, LTL-FTL is also of interest to large companies, especially in the case of international transportation. It is necessary to fill out all documents correctly, to buy insurance, to use several transport modes, to have warehouses for temporary storage, etc. Providers take all this under their control and guarantee freight safety.

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Raben, DB Schenker, Ekol, Zammler, Wheltrans, Ubi-logistic are leading players in the Ukrainian logistics market. These companies provide LTL-FTL transportation services. 3PLs offer door-to-door delivery, transportation in Ukraine and Europe, insurance and customs clearance of freight, developed infrastructure of warehouses for consolidation, preparation of accompanying documentation, tools for tracking the location of goods in real-time.

If you do not know which logistics provider to choose for LTL-transportation of your goods, use WareTeka service. There is a calculator on the website, which can be used to estimate the approximate transportation cost based on the chosen route. You can also apply to select a logistics partner for transportation. WareTeka selects a logistics provider based on the freight characteristics. It is worth noting that we provide freight transportation only in pallets.

Conclusion: What are the advantages of LTL-FTL transportation? 

The volume of freight transportation services in Ukraine is constantly increasing. They have the unquestionable advantage of reaching any point where there are roads. In addition, FTL and LTL are affordable in comparison with air traffic and fast compared to maritime transport.

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Both small businesses and large companies that want to scale have to pay attention to LTL-FTL transportation services. It is worth considering that both variants of freight transportation have their peculiarities. It is necessary to choose the type of transportation service in each case. It makes sense to apply to a 3PL provider who has experience in the transportation logistics market not only in Ukraine but also abroad. By using the resources of experienced logistics providers, businesses can organize their freight transportation most efficiently, with minimum risks and costs.

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