Less-than-truckload is a service offered by many freight and trucking companies for businesses that only need a small shipment of goods delivered. In contrast, a full truckload or large shipment uses all available space in a tractor trailer. A less-than-truckload shipment is delivered with various other shipments and is usually not delivered directly to a destination as full truckloads are.
Less-than-truckload shipments are arranged so that the driver of the tractor trailer picks up the shipment along a short route and brings it back to the terminal, where it is later transferred to another truck. This second truck brings the shipment, along with other small shipments, to another city's terminal. The less-than-truckload shipment is transferred from truck to truck until it finally reaches its destination.
Less-than-truckload shipments have a clear economical advantage for businesses. Compared to hiring a trucking company at the price of a full shipment, the cost of shipping less-than-truckload is relatively inexpensive. However, a less-than-truckload shipment may take longer to be delivered than a full shipment because it does not follow a direct route from the shipper to the destination.
Less-than-truckload is a service that falls between full truckload shipments and parcel carriers. It is shipped by the same means as full truckloads, usually in a tractor trailer, but behaves like shipments handled by parcel carriers. One well known company that offers less-than-truckload services is UPS.
As a parcel service that tends to handle large packages, UPS is a good example of how a less-than-truckload shipment involves repeated transfers. A UPS driver picks up a shipment along his route, which is brought back to the terminal at the end of his shift. The shipment is then loaded onto an overnight truck and transferred again through a daily route. This process is repeated until the shipment reaches its final destination.
Most less-than-truckload services differ from UPS in that they prefer the shipment to be packaged in bulk, strapped to a pallet or consolidated by some other means of large packaging. Although UPS offers less-than-truckload shipments, the shipments they handle are usually smaller than the less-than-truckload shipments that trucking companies handle.