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A Shift in the Market May Mean a Shift in the Modes You Ship

The current state of the logistics industry has resulted in many companies struggling to fill their trucks with shipments, especially in the food and retail sectors. Leaving empty space in a truck is very costly, but it does not have to be. Less-than-truckload (LTL) and Partial truckloads (PTL) are two common options to solve the issue of under utilized space in trucks. In this blog, we will dive into how PTL is a cost-effective, flexible, sustainable, and reliable shipping method that can solve many shippers current issues with capacity. 

Partial Truckload vs. Less-Than-Truckload: What's the difference?

When a shipper does not have enough freight to fill a whole truck, they could pay more and ship full-truckload that has wasted empty space, or they could consider sharing truckspace (and therefore the cost of the truck) with other shippers by shipping PTL or LTL. 

While these modes may appear to be similar, there are some foundational differences. With less-than-truckload shipping, multiple shippers combine shipments (12 pallets or less) that are moving from the same general areas. If you have smaller, non-fragile shipments that need to be shipped semi-frequently, then LTL might work well for you; however, since the pallets of freight get moved from truck to truck at different break-bulk facilities, transit may be elongated, and the goods are more susceptible to damage.

In partial truckload shipping, the shipper pays for a portion of the truckload, usually ranging from 6 to 18 pallets, 5 to 36 feet, and under 30,000lbs. The carrier combines multiple partial shipments into one truckload. Since there are a lot less touch-points with PTL, it is both faster and there's a lower risk of goods being damaged. 

Compared to FTL, both options allow the shipper to save on shipping costs as they only pay for the space they use, and the carrier is able to maximize the use of their equipment and reduce empty space. Some consider PTL to truly be the best-of-both worlds, in the sense that it  combines the benefits of LTL and full truckload (FTL) shipping - let’s take a deeper dive into the advantages of PTL!


Using partial truckload can be a more sustainable option for shippers. With PTL shippers can reduce the amount of trucks needed and minimize carbon emissions. This can be important for companies that are looking to reduce their environmental impact and meet sustainability goals. No one likes to open up a bag of chips and to see mostly air, why would you want to open up a trailer and see that it’s only half full? 

Cost Savings

One of the main advantages of using PTL is its cost-saving potential. Compared to full truckload or other modes, PTL allows shippers to consolidate shipments and share the cost of the truck with other shippers. Decreasing expenses and increasing profitability are especially important for shippers during a recession where order volumes are lower. For instance, during the pandemic, craft brewery shippers have been taking advantage of PTL and volume LTL to ship their products in an effort to lower their transportation costs because many beer consumers were switching from craft beer to cheaper beers due to a potential pending recession. 

Flexibility & Access to Capacity

While we are not in a full on recession yet, one of the effects of a recession is reduced capacity, as carriers tend to decrease their fleet sizes or completely exit the market. Utilizing partial truckload shipping provides shippers with both access to additional capacity and the flexibility to adjust their shipping volumes or schedules to meet these changing demands of the market. Additional capacity enables shippers to be able to continue to move their shipments and flexibility allows them to stay agile and quickly respond to changing market conditions. 

Reduce Risk of Damage

With PTL, there are fewer shipments per truck and fewer breakpoints. This results in less handling and transferring of shipments, which decreases the risk of damage or loss of goods. Every shipment is critical to a company’s bottom line, so if you have fragile freight that does not fill a full truck, using PTL can be a great option for your business.

Stronger Customer Service

By using partial truckload over traditional LTL, shippers can often improve their delivery times. Transit is reduced in PTL over LTL due to less shipments per trailer which in turn means less deliveries before yours. Shipments are also transloaded less, meaning more time on a moving trailer rather than a warehouse. This can be particularly important during a recession, when customers may be more sensitive to delays or disruptions in their supply chains.

Learn more about Loadsmart's PTL & LTL shipping here. 

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