When Is the Optimal Time to Switch from LTL to Partial Truckload?

Partial truckload shipping can be a great option for those orders that fall short of a full truckload (FTL) but are larger or more difficult to haul than traditional less than truckload freight (LTL).

It is a vastly underutilized mode as some vendors don’t even realize it is an option for their shipments.

The hybrid freight option encapsulates some of the positive attributes of both full-truckload and less-than-truckload shipping; however, to obtain those benefits using partial truckload must make sense for your order.

When partial truckload (PTL) is a good fit for your order, you can expect to see cost savings and an increase in delivery performance.

There are distinct characteristics that qualify a shipment as best suited for partial truckload. We will dive into those and look at when it’s best for your organization to use partial and when it’s best to opt for LTL.

But, before we can address when you should be using each, we should first look at the basics of PTL freight.

What is Partial Truckload Shipping?

At its most basic, partial truckload shipping is exactly what its name implies—a shipment that does not occupy the entirety of a trailer.

Now you’re probably thinking, I thought that was considered an LTL shipment. That is true. Both LTL and partial truckload are modes that utilize several different orders from different vendors that would not fill an entire truckload on their own, which is why the distinction between the two can get confusing.

Although from a bird’s eye view they appear to be the same, there are some distinct characteristics of partial truckload that set it apart from LTL. Here are some of the factors that separate the two modes:

Decreased Handling 

LTL orders commonly experience multiple touchpoints during their transit. Orders riding LTL are commonly loaded and unloaded onto multiple trucks, following a hub and spoke model, before reaching their destination.

This is not the case for PTL shipments. Orders are picked up at the origin point and unloaded from the same truck once they reach their destination. This reduces risk as there are less instances during which damage can occur.

Higher Skid Count

LTL carriers and PTL carriers often have a comparable number of orders on their truck when completing a shipment, but the number from each customer varies between the two modes. Partial truckload shipments are designed for shippers moving 4 to 16 skids whereas LTL orders can vary but are typically one or just a few pallets on a truck.

Fewer Stops

PTL shipments are handled less because of the difference in transit length. Typically, to complete a long-distance LTL haul, product is loaded, unloaded, and reloaded onto several different trucks, hitting at least one terminal along the way.

Each of these trucks complete various distance segments of the total haul; however, with PTL shipments this does not happen. The truck hauling your shipment will complete the journey from origin to destination.

No Freight Class

A product’s class plays a large part in LTL pricing. That is not the case for partial truckload as no freight class is required for shipment. This can save you from reclassification fees, other accessorial fees and some considerable pre-shipment effort. Just measure the dimensions of your pallet and you are ready to ship.

When to Choose PTL over LTL?

LTL shipping is common solution for many shippers. While there are plenty of instances in which LTL makes the most sense (see more about when to use LTL shipping) , PTL can also be used as well to supplement some of the volume that cannot otherwise fill a full trailer. If your order meets any of the following, PTL may be worth exploring:

Irregular Dimensions 

Because PTL rates are dependent on the space your product will occupy, odd-sized orders are a good fit for PTL shipping. That is because LTL pricing takes other factors into consideration that have more to do with than just the space your product occupies.

Among those, is how stackable and stowable your product is. Irregularly shaped or sized orders are inherently tougher to store alongside other product and thus will cost more to ship with an LTL carrier. If you have product like office furniture, kiosks, or event displays, partial truckload shipping can be a better choice.

Outside Major Market Destinations

LTL terminals are typically centered in large or mid-sized metropolitan areas. If your order needs to go to an outlying area around these terminals, partial truckload shipping can get it there in less time.

Rather than moving your freight to a terminal for final mile LTL delivery, which can take several days to complete, partial service takes your order directly to its destination. This can cut down on significant on-time performance issues as product at LTL terminals can sit for a significant time period.

4 to 16 Skid Order

This quantity is the sweet spot for PTL orders. Those that fall between 4 to 16 pallets are most suited for PTL. While shippers can sometimes use LTL to ship these quantities as well, partial is most likely the right fit for your freight especially if it meets any of the other above and below criteria.

Flexible Delivery Timelines

Although PTL shipping is typically quicker from origin to destination, sometimes initiating service for a partial can take longer than desired. There are fewer partial carriers than full-truckload carriers and often the driver will wait until they fill their trailer before completing a haul.

If you need urgent or expedited service, LTL is likely the better choice. But if you have given yourself plenty of lead time and as a result the shipment isn’t extremely time-sensitive, partial should be considered.

Product is Sensitive to Damage

Because LTL shipments are frequently handled, the mode can bring a bit of risk for those shipping delicate freight. If your order is sensitive to damage and is not cut out for FTL, it is best to utilize PTL over LTL.

An Order’s Weight Makes LTL Cost-Prohibitive

Thought it might not make sense to the uninitiated, LTL carriers typically charge a premium to haul light, bulky product. This is because, despite the weight, the order is still occupying a sizeable portion of the trailer.

If you are shipping light product that comes in considerable packaging, it is likely worth exploring partial truckload shipping as an alternative to LTL.

What Information Do I Need for Partial Truckload Shipping?

Much like LTL, it is critical that you accurately measure the dimensions of your shipment before arranging PTL service. It is important to give precise width and length measurements of whatever you are scheduling for shipment via a PTL carrier.

It is of the upmost importance to give accurate measurements since you will be charged accordingly and carriers will build their haul around your orders. Incorrectly reporting order dimensions can delay your product’s shipment because a carrier fits various orders together with little to no unused space. If you provide inaccurate details, it can throw off the entire trailer configuration, thus delaying the haul.

How Zipline Can Help Build Your Strategy

When considering transportation options, most brands are fully aware of FTL and LTL shipping. But partial truckload shipping can provide significant cost and performance related benefits.

If you are unsure on which mode to ship an order, contact the transportation experts at Zipline Logistics. We work with customers to choose the optimal shipment strategy for every order.

Ask Zipline Logistics which mode is best for your shipment

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Source: Zipline Logistics