The truck cabs shown above look identical, and they might be carrying cargos that appear to be exactly alike, but their freight designations could be very different: some might be LTL (less-than-truckload) while others are TL (full truckload). From freight quote to booking a carrier, the initial stages of TL and LTL shipping have several differences that might surprise you. But first, we’ll look at why they both exist.
Why Choose TL over LTL, or Vice-Versa?
Less-than-truckload shipping saves money by consolidating shipments of multiple shippers on the same truck. Since they are each using only part of the truck, all the shippers save money. But since they are sharing the truck with other shippers, goods carried LTL need to be packaged carefully to make sure they aren’t damaged in shipping and don’t damage other shipments riding on the same truck.
Full truckload is the method of choice when any of the following are true.
- The load is too large or too awkward a fit for LTL
- The shipment is delicate and requires a type of vehicle not used by LTL carriers
- Specialty vehicles such as refrigerated vans, flatbeds, step decks removable goosenecks (RGN) and air-lift suspension vehicles are booked as full truckload shipping
When TL is called for, but the load won’t come close to filling the truck, it can be booked as a partial truckload (PTL) as long as a carrier is available for it.
How Getting a Freight Quote is Different for LTL & TL
The instant online freight quote tool on freightcenter.com enables shippers to request a freight quote for either LTL or TL. Both quotes are estimates. Here’s how they differ.
LTL rates are negotiated with our preferred less-than-truckload carriers and are heavily discounted ahead of time. When you get an LTL freight quote, it will show you estimated discount prices and estimated transit times for available carriers that ship to and from the zip codes you entered. An LTL shipping expert will confirm the details of your shipment and let you know if there are any accessorial charges, such as the need for a truck with a lift gate. Confirmation calls help ensure that you are not surprised later by a billing adjustment.
TL rate quotes are far more fluid because the availability of trucks for these hauls is constantly in flux. A truck that’s available in Denver today could be in Indianapolis tomorrow. Or Baltimore, or Florida or … you get the picture.
As with LTL shipping, quotes for full truckload shipments are estimates. But, rather than seeing freight shipping cost estimates for multiple carriers, you’ll see one quote with no carrier’s name attached. You can select that quote, but the process won’t be complete until you speak with a Truckload specialist who will evaluate the route the truck will need to take, the availability for trucks on that route and whether or not you require a specialty vehicle such as a flatbed truck, a refrigerated van, an air-lift suspension and so on. The estimate provided by our Truckload expert is the one you will secure with a credit card.
Choosing a Carrier
When booking a less-than-truckload haul, the National Account Manager who reviews your order with you will also help you find the right carrier for your shipment from among the carriers listed in your free online quote. Why do you need their help?
Some carriers specialize in handling cargo that others rarely touch. Others might be offering FreightCenter special deals on certain routes that are not built into the quote system. Still, others might be subbing out part of the shipment if their nearest terminal is a great distance from either the originating or destination location, and you might not want that. For these reasons and others, your best choice may be one that is not necessarily the lowest bid. Your FreightCenter LTL shipping expert will help you decide.
With a truckload shipment, the matching system works the other way around. Once you have secured the estimate you received over the phone and via email, your haul will be posted by FreightCenter on three online freight boards used by a network of more than 5,000 carriers who find freight runs that originate in locations where they have available trucks.
On the board, the carrier sees the origin and delivery points of the haul as well as the type of vehicle needed and the estimated rate the shipper has secured. FreightCenter also emails information about the haul to a preferred list of 500-800 carriers. Interested carriers contact FreightCenter, and our carrier agents verify that the carrier has the type of vehicle needed for the job, the availability to get it done on the shipper’s schedule and the desire to haul the load at the estimated price.
Occasionally, due to a national scarcity of available trucks in certain areas, no carrier will be willing to carry the freight at the agreed-to shipping cost. When that happens FreightCenter contacts the shipper and gives them the revised estimate. The shipper is not obligated to pay more than the secured estimate and has the option of agreeing to the new estimate or cancelling the order. This happens infrequently.
Two Systems, One Goal
TL and LTL are very different systems in terms of quoting, booking and choosing a carrier, but the goal is always to get the shipper’s freight picked up and delivered on time at the agreed price. If you are usually an LTL shipper, there may be occasions when you have a load that should go TL. Similarly, regular TL customers might enjoy considerable savings by sending some loads LTL. No matter which way you go, you can count on FreightCenter to get the job done for you, easily and affordably.
In a recent survey, FreightCenter earned a Net Provider Score® of 80, while many of our competitors scored only 50-70. The score measures how likely a customer is to recommend FreightCenter to a friend or colleague. On a scale of 1-10, 80% of respondents gave FreightCenter a nine or 10. No matter which way you use FreightCenter—truckload, less-than-truckload or even parcel—you win!