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Partial Truckload Guide

Partial Truckload Guide

Partial truckload shipping is a shipping method that falls between traditional LTL and full truckload (FTL) shipping. In partial truckload shipping, a shipper occupies a portion of a truck trailer rather than paying for the entire trailer’s capacity, as in FTL.

This approach is ideal for shippers with freight that exceeds LTL requirements but still doesn’t take up a full truck. Partial truckload shipments are typically more cost-effective than FTL and offer faster transit times and less handling than traditional LTL, making them a flexible and efficient shipping option.

Our comprehensive guide aims to help you make informed decisions about PTL shipping. Read on to learn more about PTL, its benefits, when to use it, and how to choose the right PTL shipping company for you.

What is Partial Truckload Shipping?

Partial truckload shipping (PTL), is a shipping strategy that bridges the gap between conventional LTL and full truckload (FTL) shipping methods. In this method, shippers utilize only a portion of a truck trailer instead of booking the entire trailer’s capacity, as is the case with FTL. This approach is particularly beneficial for shippers with freight volumes that exceed the typical LTL range but don’t necessitate a full truckload. Partial truckload shipments tend to be more cost-effective than FTL and typically offer quicker delivery times and reduced handling compared to traditional LTL shipments, making them a versatile and efficient choice for shipping.

Shipment Size: PTL shipments are typically larger than standard LTL shipments but smaller than FTL shipments. They often range from 5 to 21 pallets (or 6 to 18 linear feet) of trailer space, although this can vary depending on the carrier and region.

Cost-Efficiency: PTL is cost-effective because shippers only pay for the space they use within the trailer. This cost structure makes it an attractive option for businesses with shipments that are too large for traditional LTL and too small for FTL.

Flexibility: PTL offers flexibility in accommodating shipments of various sizes. Shippers can adjust the amount of space they need based on the volume of their goods, allowing them to optimize costs. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for businesses with irregular or varying shipping needs.

Reduced Handling: Unlike traditional LTL shipments that undergo multiple handling and consolidation touches at terminals, PTL shipments typically involve fewer stops and less handling. This can result in reduced risk of damage and faster transit times.

Direct Routes: PTL shipments often follow more direct routes to their destinations, further contributing to shorter transit times compared to LTL shipments. This efficiency is attractive for shippers with time-sensitive deliveries.

Benefits of Partial Truckload

Partial Truckload freight shipping offers several cost-saving advantages that make it an attractive option for businesses looking to optimize their freight transportation expenses. One of the primary benefits of PTL is space efficiency. Shippers pay only for the space their shipment occupies within the trailer , as opposed to Full Truckload (FTL), where the entire trailer’s capacity is billed, regardless of utilization. This space optimization leads to significant cost reductions, especially for shippers with smaller or irregularly sized loads.

Reduced risk is another cost-saving aspect of PTL. Less handling during transit results in a lower risk of goods being damaged. This can lead to cost savings related to insurance claims and the replacement of damaged items.

Faster transit times are a notable benefit of PTL. These shipments often take more direct routes to their destinations, minimizing travel time and fuel consumption. The reduction in transit time leads to cost savings associated with shorter routes and fewer fuel expenses.

PTL also offers environmental benefits . With fewer stops and shorter routes, PTL shipments result in reduced carbon emissions, aligning with sustainability goals and potentially leading to cost savings through eco-friendly practices.

When to Use Partial Truckload Shipping

Mid-Size Shipments: When your shipment is larger than what can be accommodated by Less Than Truckload (LTL) but doesn’t require a full truckload (FTL), PTL is an ideal choice. It optimizes the use of truck space, reducing costs compared to booking an entire truck.

Time Sensitivity: PTL often has faster transit times than traditional LTL because there are fewer stops and transfers along the route. If your shipment needs to reach its destination quickly, PTL can provide a competitive transit time advantage, especially compared to LTL.

Cost-Effective for Multiple Shipments: If you’re coordinating multiple shipments heading to various destinations, consolidating them into a single PTL shipment can be cost-effective and simplify logistics. Additionally, if you want to reduce the risk of damage or loss during transit, PTL’s minimized handling and direct routes can be advantageous, especially for delicate or valuable cargo.

Examples: Some examples of shipments suitable for PTL include but are not limited to irregularly shaped cargo, high value goods, time sensitive freight, and fragile cargo. Industries that may benefit from PTL include but are not limited to manufacturing, construction, automotive, retail, agriculture, technology, healthcare, furniture, trade shows, home improvement, food and beverage, e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, heavy machinery, chemicals, and more.

Partial Truckload vs. Full Truckload vs. Less-Than-Truckload


Partial Truckload (PTL) , Full Truckload (FTL), and Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping costs vary based on factors like distance, weight, volume, and freight class. PTL is a cost-effective middle ground, offering savings by sharing trailer space. FTL is economical for large, full-trailer shipments. LTL can be costly per weight for smaller loads. To optimize costs, consult experienced carriers for accurate quotes and tailored logistics solutions.

Transit Time

When comparing the transit times of Partial Truckload (PTL) , Full Truckload (FTL), and Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping, it’s important to consider the specific needs of your shipment. PTL often offers faster transit times compared to LTL because there are fewer stops and less handling involved. FTL can be the quickest option for time-sensitive shipments that require a dedicated truck. LTL, while generally slower due to multiple stops, is still a reliable choice for less time-sensitive cargo. The actual transit times will depend on factors like distance, routes, carrier efficiency, and service levels chosen. To determine the best option, assess your shipment’s urgency and requirements, and work with experienced partial truckload companies to optimize transit times.

Handling Risks

In PTL, there is less handling during transit due to the dedicated trailer space, reducing the risk of damage or mishandling. FTL offers the lowest risk as the entire trailer is reserved for a single shipment, minimizing handling. Conversely, LTL involves multiple handling points as shipments share space, potentially increasing the risk of damage or loss. To mitigate risks, choosing FTL is ideal for high-value or fragile cargo. PTL offers a balance between risk and cost for medium-sized shipments, while LTL remains cost-effective but carries a slightly higher risk due to multiple handling points. Ultimately, your cargo’s characteristics and priorities will determine the best option for your logistics needs.

PTL vs. FTL Shipping

Partial Truckload (PTL) and Full Truckload (FTL) are distinct shipping modes tailored to different cargo volumes and logistics needs. PTL occupies a portion of a truck trailer, making it ideal for medium-sized shipments that don’t require a full trailer. It offers cost savings compared to FTL while providing dedicated space, reducing handling and damage risks. FTL, on the other hand, reserves the entire trailer for a single shipment, making it the most cost-effective for large, high-volume loads. FTL ensures faster transit times, minimal handling, and lower risk of damage. Choosing between PTL and FTL depends on shipment size, cost considerations, and delivery urgency.

PTL vs. LTL Shipping

Partial Truckload (PTL) and Less Than Truckload (LTL) are shipping methods tailored to different freight sizes and logistics needs. PTL is suitable for medium-sized shipments that occupy a portion of a truck trailer. It provides cost savings compared to LTL by reducing handling and sharing trailer space. LTL, on the other hand, is designed for smaller shipments that also don’t require a full trailer, but is best suited for 5 pallets or less. While LTL is cost-effective for smaller loads, it involves more handling and transit time due to multiple stops for various shipments. Choosing between partial truckload vs LTL depends on cargo volume, cost considerations, and the need for faster or more cost-efficient delivery.

Planning and Preparing for Partial Truckload Shipments

Compare Carriers

It’s essential to compare quotes, leverage your shipment’s volume, and seek adjustments based on flexibility and accessorial charges. Long-term commitments, backhaul opportunities, and building strong relationships with carriers can lead to favorable rates. Continuous evaluation and benchmarking ensure ongoing cost-efficiency.

Package and Label

Properly package and secure your freight to prevent damage during transit. Use pallets, shrink wrap, and dunnage materials as needed. Partial truckload falls between LTL and full truckload, typically involving shipments over 5,000 pounds or 6 or more pallets. Ensure all shipments are labeled correctly with essential information.

Prepare Documents

Prepare all necessary shipping documents, including bills of lading and packing lists. Contact your chosen carrier or broker to request a PTL freight quote. Be transparent about your shipment’s characteristics to receive an accurate estimate.

Key factors to consider when assessing partial truckload carriers include experience and reputation, service coverage, equipment and capacity, pricing, insurance coverage, safety, customer service, and sustainability.

Contract Considerations

Carefully review the terms, including pricing structures, volume commitments, and potential additional charges. Ensure that the contract aligns with your shipment needs and allows for flexibility.

Best Practices for Partial Truckload Shipping

Load optimization for Partial Truck Load (PTL) shipments is essential to maximize space utilization and minimize costs. Here are key considerations:

Cargo Consolidation: Combine multiple smaller shipments into a single PTL to fill the trailer’s available space more efficiently.

Cubic Space Utilization: Arrange cargo to use the full vertical space of the trailer, stacking items when possible to reduce wasted space.

Palletization: Use pallets to standardize cargo dimensions and facilitate easier loading, creating a uniform and compact load.

Weight Distribution: Ensure even weight distribution across the trailer to maintain stability during transit and comply with weight regulations.

Strapping and Bracing: Secure cargo with straps, braces, or load bars to prevent shifting and damage during transport.

Custom Packaging: Opt for custom packaging tailored to your cargo’s dimensions to minimize voids and maximize space usage.

Regular Audits: Conduct periodic audits to verify that loading guidelines are followed and space is maximized.

By implementing these load optimization strategies, you can reduce shipping costs, improve efficiency, and ensure the safe transport of your cargo in PTL shipments.

Pricing & Cost Factors

Load optimization for Partial Truck Load (PTL) shipments is essential to maximize space utilization and minimize costs. Here are key considerations:

Shipment Volume: The volume of freight you ship plays a significant role in pricing. Larger volumes often result in lower rates per unit.

Distance: The distance your shipment needs to travel affects costs. Longer distances generally incur higher charges.

Freight Class: The classification of your cargo based on its characteristics, density, and handling requirements influences pricing. Higher freight classes may result in higher costs.

Special Requirements: Any special handling or equipment needs, such as temperature-controlled trailers or hazardous materials, can increase pricing.

Accessorial Charges: Additional services, such as inside delivery, liftgate service, or residential delivery, come with extra charges.

Fuel Surcharges: Fuel costs can impact pricing, leading to fuel surcharges that fluctuate with market rates.

Seasonal Variations: Shipping during peak seasons or holidays may lead to higher rates due to increased demand.

Carrier Selection: Different carriers have varying pricing structures, so your choice of carrier can influence costs.

How to Choose a Partial Truckload Shipping Company

Assess Your Needs: Begin by evaluating your shipping requirements, including shipment volume, frequency, destinations, and any special handling or equipment needs. Understanding your specific needs will help you find a carrier that aligns with your requirements.

Research Carriers: Look for reputable PTL carriers in your region or the areas where you’ll be shipping. You can start with online searches, industry directories, or recommendations from colleagues.

Rates and Quotes: Request detailed quotes from multiple carriers. Compare rates, but don’t base your decision solely on price; consider the overall value, including service quality.

Customer Support: Assess the responsiveness and availability of the carrier’s customer support team. Quick and efficient communication is vital during shipping.

Contracts and Agreements: Review all contracts and agreements carefully. Ensure they align with your needs and expectations and clarify any questions or concerns.

Insurance Coverage: Understand the carrier’s insurance coverage and whether it adequately protects your cargo in case of loss or damage.

By following these steps and conducting thorough due diligence, you can select a PTL shipping company that aligns with your needs and provides reliable, cost-effective transportation solutions for your cargo.

Sunset Pacific Transportation’s Partial Truckload Shipping Services

At Sunset Pacific Transportation , we proudly offer partial truck load services for shipments originating out of California, Nevada and Arizona to all 48 states, including:

  • Optimized LTL Consolidation
  • Minimized claims risk with only one stop
  • Pre-set delivery appointments
  • Direct, personalized and dedicated service representative
  • Specialized freight handling
  • No contracts


Partial Truckload Shipping is a method that bridges the gap between traditional Less Than Truckload (LTL) and Full Truckload (FTL) shipping . In partial truckload, shippers utilize a portion of a truck trailer instead of booking the entire trailer’s capacity as required in FTL. This is beneficial for shipments that exceed typical LTL volume but don’t need a full truck. Partial truckload shipments are often more cost-effective than FTL, providing quicker transit times and reduced handling compared to standard LTL, offering flexibility and efficiency in shipping.

Partial truckload shipping is a crucial component of modern logistics due to its cost efficiency, speed, reduced handling, versatility, environmental benefits, capacity optimization, and its ability to provide a competitive edge in the marketplace. It offers a strategic middle ground between LTL and FTL, making it an indispensable option for businesses looking to streamline their shipping operations. Contact Sunset Pacific Transportation today for reliable and hassle-free shipping solutions.

Partial Truckload FAQs

When should you opt for partial instead of LTL?

Partial truckload shipping can often be a more economical choice if your shipment exceeds 5,000 pounds or involves six pallets or more. Furthermore, LTL rates are influenced by freight class, which can result in higher expenses for shipments that occupy a substantial volume but have a low density.

What’s the difference between PTL, LTL, and FTL?

PTL (Partial Truckload) occupies a portion of a truck trailer, ideal for mid-sized shipments. LTL (Less Than Truckload) combines multiple small shipments into one trailer. FTL (Full Truckload) uses an entire trailer for a single shipment.

How should I prepare for PTL shipping?

To prepare for Partial Truckload PTL shipping, start by accurately measuring and weighing your shipment. Properly package and palletize items to ensure safe transport. Prepare all necessary shipping documentation and labels. Choose a reputable PTL carrier based on your specific requirements. Effective communication with your carrier is key, so provide clear shipment details, including pickup and delivery instructions, to ensure a smooth shipping process.

What are the cost factors for PTL shipping?

Cost factors for Partial Truckload (PTL) shipping include the shipment’s size, weight, distance, and any additional services required, such as liftgate or inside delivery. The freight class and density also impact pricing. PTL offers cost advantages for shipments that are too large for LTL but don’t require a full truck. It’s essential to work with experienced carriers to obtain accurate quotes and determine the most cost-effective solution for your unique logistics needs.

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