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Breaking Down the Differences: Partial Truckload vs. Volume LTL Shipping

Differences Between Partial Truckload and Volume LTL Shipping

Understanding Partial Truckload and Volume LTL

Partial Truckload (PTL) Shipping

Partial truckload shipping is a shipping approach that falls between conventional less-than-truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL) shipping. In this method, a shipper utilizes a portion of a truck trailer instead of securing the entire trailer’s capacity, as in FTL. PTL is often priced based on the space utilized within the truck, and the cost is influenced by factors like linear feet, weight, and density.

Volume LTL Shipping

Volume LTL shipping is a freight transport method for smaller cargo quantities that don’t fill an entire truck. Volume LTL pricing is typically based on the shipment’s volume, weight, and freight class. It offers cost advantages for larger but not fully loaded shipments. It’s ideal for businesses with shipments too large for parcel shipping but not large enough to warrant booking an entire truck.

Factors Influencing the Decision

When deciding between PTL vs volume LTL shipping, several factors come into play:

Cargo Volume: Consider the size of your shipment. If it’s large but doesn’t require a full truck, PTL might be more suitable. For smaller yet significant shipments, Volume LTL could be the optimal choice.

Cost Efficiency: Evaluate the overall costs associated with each option. PTL can be cost-effective for larger shipments, while Volume LTL provides savings for businesses with substantial yet space-consuming loads.

Flexibility in Scheduling: Assess your flexibility in scheduling. PTL may provide more precise scheduling since it’s dedicated to your shipment, while Volume LTL might have more standardized schedules due to multiple stops.

Handling: PTL often allows for less handling of cargo, which can be beneficial for delicate or specialized freight. Volume LTL, on the other hand, involves multiple shipments on the same truck, requiring careful packaging to prevent damage.

Advantages and Disadvantages of PTL vs. Volume LTL

Both Volume Less Than Truckload (LTL) and Partial Truckload (PTL) offer advantages depending on the specific needs and characteristics of your shipments. 

Advantages of PTL


With PTL, multiple shipments are consolidated onto one truck, optimizing resource utilization and minimizing empty space. This results in reduced transportation costs, making PTL a cost-effective choice, especially for smaller to mid-sized loads. 

Reduced handling

PTL’s consolidation approach minimizes touchpoints, lowers the risk of damage, and increases overall efficiency, making it a preferred choice for shippers looking to reduce handling-related costs and potential risks.

Environmental benefits

Partial Truckload (PTL) offers environmental benefits by consolidating multiple shipments onto a single truck. This consolidation reduces the overall number of vehicles on the road, leading to lower carbon emissions and a smaller environmental footprint. 

Advantages of Volume LTL

Flexibility: Volume LTL offers flexibility in accommodating varying shipment sizes. It allows businesses to adjust to changing shipping needs without committing to the space of a full truck.

Reduced Environmental Impact: By consolidating multiple shipments on one truck, Volume LTL contributes to reduced carbon emissions and a smaller environmental footprint compared to individual smaller shipments.

Efficient Transit Times: While not as direct as full truckload shipping, Volume LTL shipments often have more efficient transit times compared to traditional LTL due to the consolidation of shipments.

Disadvantages of PTL

Limited Cargo Size Range: PTL is best suited for shipments that fall within a specific size range. Extremely small or exceptionally large shipments may not optimize the use of a partial truckload.

Transit Time: PTL shipments may not always have the shortest transit times, especially when compared to dedicated full truckload shipments. Multiple stops and shared truck space could contribute to longer delivery times.

Limited Flexibility: PTL may have limited flexibility in terms of delivery schedules and routes compared to full truckload shipping. This limitation could impact businesses with specific delivery requirements.

Disadvantages of Volume LTL

Minimum Volume Requirements: Some Volume LTL providers may have minimum volume requirements, making it less suitable for businesses with smaller shipments or irregular shipping patterns.

Cost Complexity: Pricing for Volume LTL can be complex and involve various factors such as weight, space utilization, and distance. Businesses may find it challenging to estimate costs accurately.

Potential for Longer Transit Times: Due to multiple stops and consolidation points, Volume LTL shipments may have longer transit times compared to dedicated FTL shipments, affecting businesses with time-sensitive delivery requirements.

When to Choose Partial Truckload

Partial Truckload (PTL) shipping is the optimal solution for shipments that exceed Less Than Truckload (LTL) capacity but fall short of requiring an entire truck. It offers a cost-effective alternative for mid-sized shipments, balancing the efficiency of Full Truckload (FTL) and the flexibility of LTL. PTL is particularly beneficial for businesses with irregular shipping patterns or varying shipment sizes, providing versatility and adaptability. By choosing PTL, businesses with cargo too substantial for standard LTL but not filling a truck ensure cost savings, a more direct route, reduced handling, and an efficient solution for mid-sized shipments.

When to Choose Volume LTL

Volume Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping is a cost-effective choice for businesses with larger shipments that don’t require a full truck. This method provides efficiency and economic benefits for mid-sized shipments, optimizing space utilization and distributing costs effectively. It caters to businesses with consistent or periodic larger shipments, bridging the gap between traditional LTL and Full Truckload (FTL) options. Volume LTL is flexible, accommodating various shipment sizes and offering access to a broad carrier network. For businesses seeking cost savings, efficient space use, and flexibility in shipping larger quantities without committing to a full truckload, Volume LTL is the optimal solution.

Making an Informed Decision

Choosing between PTL (Partial Truckload) and Volume LTL (Less Than Truckload) shipping depends on the specific characteristics of your shipments and your business requirements. PTL is ideal for mid-sized shipments that exceed traditional LTL capabilities but don’t require a full truck, offering a cost-effective solution with reduced handling and direct routes. On the other hand, Volume LTL is suitable for larger shipments that don’t fill an entire truck, providing cost advantages, optimized space utilization, and flexibility for varying shipment sizes. The decision should consider the size, frequency, and nature of your shipments, along with budget considerations and preferences for space efficiency, guiding you to the shipping solution that aligns best with your business needs.

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