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Comparing FTL and LTL Shipping Costs

When it comes to shipping freight, two of the main options are full truckload (FTL) and less than truckload (LTL) shipping. The key difference between FTL and LTL is the amount of space taken up in the truck. With FTL, a business ships enough freight to fill an entire trailer, while with LTL they share space with other companies. This difference affects the costs.

FTL Shipping Costs

FTL shipping is generally more expensive per mile than LTL. However, you're paying for an entire truck and trailer for your exclusive use. Costs vary based on factors like:

➡ Mileage - Longer distances generally have lower per-mile rates. Short-haul FTL is expensive.

➡ Trailer type - A standard 53-foot dry van may range from $1.60-$2.00+ per mile. Specialized trailers (reefer, flatbed, etc) cost more.

➡ Fuel surcharges - These fluctuate with diesel prices and can add 25% or more to the base rate.

➡ Additional fees - Loading/unloading, detention time, and other accessorials may apply.

The main advantage of FTL shipping is you avoid handling fees and delays associated with LTL shipping.

LTL Shipping Costs

With LTL, shippers pay a rate based on the weight of their freight and the distance it travels. Since multiple companies share trailer space, these rates are usually lower per mile compared to FTL. However, LTL carriers typically charge additional fees including:

➡ Fuel surcharges - Much like FTL, these change regularly based on fuel prices.

➡ Shipment weight - Heavier pallets or crated freight costs more to haul. Light shipments under 100 lbs have higher rates.

➡ Cubic minimum charges - LTL carriers bill extra if freight takes up more cubic feet than its actual weight.

➡ Additional handling - Each stop at an intermediate terminal adds a fee, usually around $75 per stop.

➡ Residential delivery - Delivering to a home rather than business adds a residential surcharge.

➡ Other accessorials - Charges for lift gate service, inside delivery, or over-dimensional freight.

The base LTL freight class usually ranges from around $2.00 to $4.00 per hundredweight for a 250 mile haul. But all the add-on fees can quickly multiply the final cost.

The Choice Between FTL and LTL

Deciding between FTL vs LTL shipping depends largely on freight volume. FTL works for shippers with enough consistent volume to justify paying for a full trailer. LTL offers flexibility for smaller and irregular loads.

Compare costs closely and factor in pickup/delivery requirements to see which option provides the best value for you.

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