ltl meaning

LTL Meaning Explained: Freight, Logistics, Transportation, Trucking, & More

You’re dedicated. You’re driven. You love nothing more than getting orders from your customers and growing your business every single day.

But you also get a massive headache every time you have a small order to ship out.

It’s too big for the post office, but you don’t really need an entire truck to yourself.

So what are your options?

ltl shipper waiting in front of a row of trucks

You may need to consider LTL shipping.

In this post, we’re going to talk all about LTL meaning in logistics, what an LTL carrier definition is, and of course the practical tips you need to make a successful LTL shipment happen for your business.

So let’s get into the details of this handy freight shipping method.

LTL Meaning

LTL refers to a specific kind of shipping (no duh!).

It’s for those times when you as the shipper have more than a parcel-sized load to send out, but not as much as a full truckload. It’s for smaller shipments that don’t need to take up an entire dry van or flatbed, typically ranging in size from 150 to 20 000 pounds, roughly.

Freight sent by LTL is usually consolidated, which just means combined with other freight loads into one flatbed truck or dry van. It’s kind of like taking the bus to work instead of driving in your private vehicle. You share space with other freight, and along the route, freight is unloaded, just like passengers on a bus.

You know what else is shared, too?

The cost of the transportation!

LTL definitely has its benefits, and cost efficiency is one. By sharing space, you aren’t bearing the full brunt of the cost of a whole truck.

Pretty great, right?

We certainly think so.

What does LTL stand for?

So it probably comes as no surprise that LTL stands for “less than truckload” based on what we just went over.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, you’re probably wondering who uses LTL shipping, and why it can be a great option for your shipping needs.

Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered.

There are plenty of benefits to using LTL shipping, as outlined in the table below:


Why It’s Important


Only paying for shipping space and weight your freight takes up, so you’re saving the cost of paying for a full truckload shipment on your own.


LTL is good for small to medium-sized businesses because as demand ebbs and flows as you can book pallets as you need them, rather than shorting yourself space at the post office or fronting a whole truckload without the items to fill it.

More secure

Rather than making multiple trips to the post office with multiple parcels, a pallet is better and more secure, especially for smaller shipments.

Environmentally conscious

Conserves energy and reduces emissions by consolidating multiple small shipments into one truckload.

As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to LTL shipping, but how do you know if LTL shipping is the right choice for your business?

The answer is actually a series of questions.

These are questions that you should ask yourself when deciding on using LTL shipping:

  1. How big is my shipment (size, weight, volume)?

  2. How fast do I need it to arrive?

  3. What’s my shipping budget?

  4. What kind of items (perishable, non-perishable) am I shipping?

Ideally, your answers should be as follows if you’re going to choose LTL shipping:

  1. Shipments should be under 10 000 pounds.

  2. You don’t need it expedited.

  3. Your budget is lower.

  4. You’re shipping non-perishable, dry goods.

If your answers matched ours — great! Your business could be a great candidate for LTL shipping.

Explaining LTL Meaning in Logistics

Whether you’re new to logistics or have been running a successful business for years, it can get kind of overwhelming sometimes.

Ensuring your logistics are in check is an important part of supply chain management for your company. It can save you time and money to have an effective logistics plan in place, but you probably already knew that!

What you may not know is how LTL can fit into your logistics plan, so we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty details for you, so you can determine if LTL is the right fit...

ltl trucking shipping


LTL Carrier Definition

In logistics, there are plenty of ways to get your stuff where it needs to go — by ground, rail, ocean, or air.

We’re going to focus on ground transportation since it’s kind of our thing (if you don’t believe us, just check out some of our customer stories).

In terms of ground transportation, there are different kinds of services that can get your goods where they need to go:

  1. Dry van (for non-perishable dry goods)

  2. Flat deck or flatbed trucks (for cargo that doesn’t need to be enclosed)

  3. Reefer trucks (for refrigerated and perishable items)

  4. Tanker trucks (for liquids)

When it comes to LTL, dry vans and flat decks are typical, as they can carry multiple shipments easily, and you don’t have to worry about perishable items spoiling.

So that’s great, but what exactly happens when you choose to ship your goods using LTL?

Typically, it goes something like this:

  1. Local drivers deliver shipments to businesses from their local terminals.

  2. When the local driver is done their deliveries, they can switch to picking up shipments from other shippers nearby.

  3. Once drivers pick up a shipment, they can head back to their local terminal.

  4. Then, all of the shipments from the day in the local terminal destined to go out are consolidated and shipped out based on the shipment’s destination.

  5. There may be different stops at other terminals along the way, depending, but once your shipment reaches the destination terminal, it’s sorted by final destination, and then picked up by the local delivery driver for the final leg of its journey.

This process can depend on the LTL carrier and destination but it is how LTL operations usually function.

LTL Order Picker Meaning

In LTL, there’s a whole cast of shipping and logistics characters that are key to the success of your shipment and an LTL order picker is one of those important characters.

We love an analogy to help make the sometimes head-spinning nature of logistics a little easier to digest, so think of an LTL order picker meaning like this.

From fast food to fine dining, someone has to take your order. You communicate with the order taker what you’d like to dine on, and then that ticket is read and fulfilled by a chef. In this analogy, the LTL order picker is the chef.

That means they’re the person responsible for picking items off the truck for consolidation or from the warehouse storage.

This is a key role in less than truckload shipping, and without them, no orders would ever even leave storage!

LTL Carriers

So this LTL thing sounds pretty great — but how can you determine who to trust to carry your precious cargo?

Well, the answer depends on what your shipment is, and more importantly, where your shipment is headed.

ltl truck shipment long haul

There are different types of LTL shipping and carriers:

  1. Drop Ship LTL

  2. Regional LTL Carriers

  3. National LTL Carriers

  4. International LTL Shipping

Each one can play a role in your overall logistics plan whether alone or in a mix, so let’s break them down so you can determine which LTL carriers and shipping methods are right for you.

Drop Ship LTL

Sometimes, a business doesn’t need to keep their goods physically in stock, in say, a warehouse that costs a ton of money. You may be a small or medium business that doesn’t have the kind of volume or distribution (or cash) that calls for an investment like that.

What is a business owner to do?

business owner confused about ltl shipping


Enter — LTL drop shipping.

This is a supply chain management and logistics method where you transfer or translate your customer’s orders along with their shipping details right to your supplier, whether that is a manufacturer, retailer, or wholesaler.

Your supplier then uses your order information to pick, pack, and ship your goods right to the customer.

Nice and easy, right?

This is great for orders that are larger than usual, orders for bulky and large items you may not have room to store on-site or something you just don’t stock normally such as seasonal items.

Regional LTL Carriers

Regional LTL carriers are LTL carriers that focus on servicing a group of provinces or states within a smaller, more defined region.

This kind of LTL carrier is all about density and coverage within the region but typically doesn’t service outside of their smaller area. It’s super common to find these more localized carriers, and they can offer a high caliber of service and competitive pricing.

It’s a good idea to look for regional LTL service when you’re having your freight picked up and delivered in the same area, especially if you’re doing this on a consistent basis.

National LTL Carriers

If you’re shipping and delivering across the whole country, then you need to consider adding a national LTL carrier to your mix.

By providing border-to-border coverage, national LTL carriers are important for most small, medium, and large businesses shipping goods to customers across the nation. Often, national carriers create complex, dense networks of drivers and hub terminals that are able to serve a wide range of customers.

Sometimes, a national LTL carrier has partner carriers to help them give their customers the service they deserve. This ensures your shipment can get to where it needs to go, minus the pain of connecting with multiple carriers yourself.

National carriers often have better consolidation, which we might know a thing or two about.

In fact, Moto understands that simple acts like consolidating freight at our terminals let us work smarter. With consolidation, we save time, energy, and resources. This is communicated to our customers in our hard-to-beat pricing!

Consolidation saves on transport costs, pick up and or delivery costs, and warehouse labor.

So if you have customers all over the country, or are growing your business, adding a national LTL carrier to your logistics mix is definitely something to think about.

international ltl shipping trucks and port

International LTL Shipping

If you’re looking for an LTL carrier to go across the border with your shipment, then you’re looking for an international LTL carrier.

We all know the headache of handling the ins and outs of cross-border shipping, but at Moto Transportation, we try to make the complicated, simple.

Our cross-border, international LTL shipping process is a piece of cake to handle, so you can get back to doing what you do best — while we take care of the rest.

This is how our process works for cross-border, international LTL shipping:

  1. Get a customized quote based on your requirements, with no hidden fees

  2. Book your shipment using our easy, online portal

  3. Your shipment is tracked daily, with the ability for you to see what is going on at all times

  4. We deliver your shipment and we have control over your shipment, which leads to low claims.

  5. We send your invoice, we provide access to our easy, online portal, and give you, multiple payment options

Oh, and did we mention?

Our cutting-edge LTL consolidation solutions let you choose your own adventure. Our terminal locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dallas, give you the perfect balance between timeliness, security, and budget when you leave your international LTL shipping to us.

Top 3 LTL Shipping Practical Tips

So you’ve got the lowdown on the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of LTL shipping — but how can you apply this to your business to help make your logistics feel like less of a stress-induced nightmare?

Thankfully, we’ve got our top three practical shipping tips for using LTL carriers (like us) that will eliminate some of those headaches.

Tip 1: Plan Ahead and Timing

Have you ever heard the saying, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”?

That is never more true than when you’re planning an LTL shipment.

First of all, you need to determine how fast you need your shipment to get to where it needs to go. If you need your shipment to reach its destination in short order, LTL may not be the right choice for you.

With an LTL delivery, the truck will be shared with other shipments destined for points along the main route. This could require the truck to stop at other destinations along the way – something that costs time that you cannot afford to lose. By upgrading your shipment to a full truckload, your goods carry a priority delivery straight through to their single destination.

The other thing to consider is if your shipment is heading over the border.

To get your delivery across the border as fast as possible, it’s best to plan when the ideal time to cross would be. Simple things such as long weekends and holidays can cause a headache when a delivery is already rushed. U.S. and Canadian holidays can differ, so plan to avoid those busy times to expedite your delivery and avoid a potentially stressful situation.

Consulting a truck departure schedule alongside the calendar is a good way to make sure you know your timing is going to be right.

Tip 2: Understand Freight Class

LTL shipping can feel really complicated for newbies.

Between the logistics jargon, the complicated rate tables, freight classifications, discounts, accessorials, and minimums it can feel confusing.

Trust us, we get it!

The first question you want to ask yourself is just how big your shipment is. Sometimes, you may think it’s big enough to necessitate an FTL shipping method, but it’s important to understand your freight density class, so you know just how much you’re really shipping.

Freight density class is a standardized price classification system in the shipping industry. It gives a uniform framework between carriers, brokers, and warehousing. Freight class determines how workable the freight is inside the trailer which is why it affects the rate.

What freight class you’re in is determined by a handful of things:

  • Ease of handling
  • Value of shipment
  • Weight, height, and length
  • Density
  • Liability

If your brain hurts from trying to figure out how the heck you’d even calculate this number, don’t worry, we’ve got a handy density calculator for you to use for estimation.

By understanding your freight class, you can get a better idea of costs and avoid extra fees on your bill after the fact, like re-class and re-weigh fees. Remember that for every 100 pounds, it costs more money to move. Trucks have capacity limits and even just a few inches or pounds can affect which freight class your shipment falls into.

Along the same lines as the old saying “measure twice, cut once”, you want to be really sure of the accuracy of your measurements for the shipment’s freight classification to avoid those painful extra charges.

Tip 3: Choose the Right Carrier

You wouldn’t choose a medical student to be your brain surgeon, so why would you trust a transportation company that doesn’t have a ton of experience??

At Moto Transportation, we’ve been helping people get their stuff where it needs to go for a decade.

Our core values have guided us since the beginning because we believe that you deserve to have a good reason to believe in us. After all, this is your business and your money on the line!

We believe in:

  • No bullshit: We don’t lie, we get to the point and we don’t hide behind empty promises
  • Being stupid smart: We’re always learning, we're founded on innovation, and we're emotionally intelligent when dealing with our partners and customers
  • Get’er done: We take ownership, follow up, and we are team players

This framework has given us the ability to service our customers’ needs not just well, but 99.9% damage-free and 94.9% on-time... Plus, we offer an easy-access online customer portal and backstage pass to our TMS system.

We pride ourselves on our work every day, and we like to think it’s reflected when we hear customer shipping success stories.

FAQs about LTL Meaning

What is LTL freight meaning?

LTL freight is just any items being shipped using the LTL, or less than truckload shipping, method.

What does LTL stand for in the transportation industry?

In the transportation industry, LTL stands for ‘less than truckload’. This means that the freight is transported using a dry van or flatbed, but doesn’t need to take up the whole truck, so other vendors’ freight shares the space with your shipment.

woman checking ltl shipping size


What is the difference between FTL and LTL?

These two kinds of transportation are pretty much opposites on the shipping spectrum. The

LTL meaning as we’ve talked about in this post is less than truckload, while what FTL means is exactly as you may guess — full truckload.

In the table below, we’ve outlined the primary differences between LTL and FTL freight:

FTL (Full Truckload)

LTL (Less Than Truckload)

  • Shipments 20 000 pounds or more.
  • More space for your shipment.
  • More expensive.
  • Shipments 150 to 20 000 pounds.
  • Less space.
  • Shared shipment space with other vendors due to consolidation.
  • More cost-effective (cheaper).

How do you use an LTL freight quote calculator?

Before you can get an LTL freight quote, it’s important to calculate your freight density class using the measurements of your shipment. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to gather up all of the other information and details about your shipping possible to avoid fees later on, as well as consult accessorial pricing in case you need any extras. Then it’s time to contact us to get your quote calculated.

Does my LTL shipment travel on the same truck that picks it up?

If the shipment is moving in our asset-based lanes, then it will be picked up by a local driver, then transferred to our 53’ Dry Van line haul trailer, then into the truck that makes the final local delivery. It will not be transferred at any point during the line haul. If the shipment is moving with one of our partners it may be transferred several times at terminals along the way.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’re an expert in LTL shipping who’s learned everything from what does LTL stand for, to the details on dropship LTL, different kinds of LTL carriers, plus our top three practical tips for LTL shipping, you can apply this to your business to help create more efficient logistics planning.

One more thing you’ll need to do?

Contact us so you can have the most adaptable, scalable, and competitive freight shipping service across Canada and the United States on your transportation team.