Full Truckload (FTL): Everything You Need to Know

Jun 26, 2023

In logistics, the most common meaning of FTL stands for “full truckload.” Now, the name is itself is fairly descriptive, but the details of full truckload shipping may not be that obvious. Luckily, I can explain it in more detail.

What is FTL?

FTL is an acronym that stands for “full truckload”, and the word “shipping” is often implied. The meaning is simple: FTL shipment is a freight of goods that takes up all the space in a means of transport. As such, a single client pays the carrier for the entire truck all by themselves. This is a step up from LTL shipping – where your freight takes up Less than TruckLoad and will share space with goods from other clients.

When it comes to load measurements of more scientific than “1 truck,” an FTL shipment can be between 24 and 34 Euro pallets. The upper weight limit is 24 tons. This may vary slightly dependent on the carrier and how big their truck is. In 2021, these kinds of large trucks took 73.2% of all road freight traffic.

Benefits of Full Truckload (FTL) Shipping

FTL shipping is what large businesses want out of the logistics industry. Once you get the need to move enough goods for a full truckload shipment or two, you’re not going to want to both with splitting them apart. Here’s why:

  • Reduced handling and transit times: unlike LTL shipments, FTL isn’t picked up, loaded and offloaded in parts. The entire shipment is loaded at once and offloaded only at the final destination. This cuts down on both handling and transit times as there are no intermediary stops.
  • Increased security and minimised risk of damage: if your freight is sensitive, you don’t want it rubbing elbows (pallet edges?) with other shipments. Less handling means less danger of your load getting bumped, bruised and otherwise dinged up.
  • Dedicated truck capacity for exclusive use: if the truck carries only your load, you become the monarch of its domain. You can maintain contact and deal with changing delivery conditions of the freight in question much easier as the truck driver is now only concerned with you and your goods.

How Full Truckload (FTL) Shipping Works

A simple explanation of the FTL shipping process is easy: you order a truck, it loads your cargo at point A and offloads it at point B. Of course, you may want to know more about the steps involved in FTL shipment. So here’s a more detailed explanation of the FTL process:

  1. Booking a shipment: you have freight and your logistics specialists now have to find a carrier that is as affordable as it’s trustworthy as well as having at least one truck available.
  2. Loading: your freight is loaded, taking up either the entire truck or just being the only thing the truck carriers.
  3. Transit: the truck carries the load to the final destination. You maintain contact with the carrier and potentially even the driver. Since there are no other freights on the same trailer, the truck is beelining towards the destination.
  4. Offloading: shipments are offloaded at the endpoint. Again, the whole load is offloaded at once with a low risk of damage to the goods.

The key stakeholders in this process are the client (you, presumably) and the carrier. Since your order took up the entire space in the truck, there are no other clients to contend with.

FTL vs. LTL (Less Than Truckload) Shipping

So far, we have mostly talked about FTL, only briefly mentioning LTL. For the sake of completion, we’re going to compare them side-by-side, right now!

With FTL, one truck carries freight from one client to a single destination making no stops.

With LTL, one truck carrier freight from multiple clients to multiple destinations potentially making multiple stops.

Granted, “my shipment is capricious and gets fussy around other goods” isn’t the factor deciding whether you’ll go FTL or LTL.

If your freight takes up a full truckload, is sensitive/fragile, demands a tight schedule and won’t cause any issues with warehousing, choose FTL.

If your freight doesn’t take up a full truck, isn’t sensitive, has a fairly lenient delivery deadline and may cause issues with warehousing, choose LTL.

The choices are both equally valid as long as you use them in the right situation. As such, both of them have pros and cons:

FTL pros:

  • Better control of the freight.
  • Tighter schedule.
  • Safer for the cargo.
  • Suited for freight that doesn’t fit neatly on pallets.

FLT cons:

  • Freight usually has to fit a minimum weight requirement.
  • May be more expensive (esp. if the load doesn’t literally take up a full trailer).
  • May be less environmentally friendly (if the freight doesn’t take up a full trailer).

LTL pros:

  • More affordable.
  • Leads to better utilization of trailer space.
  • May be faster for local deliveries.
  • With freight exchanges in play, helps cut down on empty truck traffic.

LTL cons:

  • Less secure.
  • Not as fast at long range.
  • Less control of the cargo.

For a more detailed breakdown, read our full FTL vs. LTL article.

Factors Affecting Full Truckload (FTL) Shipping Costs

When it comes to the price of FTL shipping, consider these factors:

  • Freight weight, size, and density: hopefully, it actually takes up one full truckload.
  • Distance and transportation lane: the further you go, the more you pay – simple.
  • Fuel prices and market demand: probably the one aspect you have the least control over, as fuel price fluctuation and the activities of other people desiring freight are not for you to determine.
  • Additional services and accessorials: this covers all other processes involving cargo transit, such as loading and unloading.

Why Choose Spotos for your FTL freight delivery?

Now that I’ve covered all the fun details of full truckload shipping, let me tell you why you should choose Spotos for your shipping needs:

  • The network: it’s a lot easier to find FTL carriers when you have our network of 70,000 trucks at your fingertips.
  • The simplicity: you wish your supply chain management software was as intuitive and easy to use as our platform.
  • The automation: our entire platform is heavily based on automated processes and AI assistance to help you save money and time.
  • The transparency: it’s cool that Spotos offers real-time truck visibility. It’s even better that it comes with price and cost transparency, guaranteed cargo safety, and settled cargo claims.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many pallets is considered a full truck load?

A full truck load is considered to be from 28 to 34 Euro pallets.

What are the disadvantages of full truck load?

The disadvantages of an FTL shipment is that it may have a minimum weight requirement and be less affordable or environmentally friendly if you don’t actually fill the entire space.

Is full truckload prices based on weight?

Yes, FTL prices are partially based on weight, but a lot of other factors like fuel costs and length of the trip also need to be considered.

Are there any environmental benefits associated with FTL shipping?

Not really, although FTL shipping can be an environmentally-sound solution if your shipment takes up the entire truck.

What can be shipped as a full truckload (FTL) shipment?

FTL shipments can be anything that takes up less than 34 pallets and weights less than 24 tons. It’s especially great for goods that can be sensitive or hazardous. In fact, most of the freight transported by trucks is ores, other mining-related goods, food, and tobacco.

What factors should someone consider when selecting the appropriate FTL carrier?

When selecting the appropriate FTL carrier, you should consider:

  • whether they’ll have trucks available.
  • pricing.
  • transparency of the process.
  • the ability to track the truck live.
  • accessorials.