LTL Freight Shipping. Quotes and Prices

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Article about LTL shipping

Author: Steve Palmer

Updated: 12/23/2023

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What is LTL?

LTL shipping stands for “Less-Than-Truckload” shipping, a term used in the freight and shipping industry. Imagine it as the carpool lane of cargo transport, where instead of filling an entire truck with your goods (which would be Full Truckload, or FTL), your shipment shares space with others’. It’s like ordering a small pizza and sharing the delivery with neighbors who’ve also ordered small pizzas, instead of getting a giant pizza just for yourself. Here’s the scoop on LTL:

1. The Basics:

  • Size: LTL is perfect for shipments that are too big for parcel carriers (like your local postal service) but too small to fill a whole truck. Generally, LTL shipments range from 150 to about 10,000 pounds.
  • Space Sharing: Your freight takes up a portion of the truck’s space, along with shipments from other customers. It’s like a group road trip for cargo.

2. How It Works:

  • Pickup: An LTL carrier collects shipments from various shippers.
  • Transportation Hub: Shipments often go to a hub or terminal where they’re sorted and consolidated for their next leg of the journey.
  • Delivery: After potentially passing through multiple hubs, shipments are delivered to their respective destinations.

3. Benefits:

  • Cost-Effective: Since you’re only paying for the portion of the truck your freight occupies, it’s often more economical than hiring an entire truck.
  • Flexibility: Ideal for businesses with smaller freight volumes or those that don’t need to rush shipments.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Consolidating shipments means fewer trucks on the road, which is better for the environment.

4. Considerations:

  • Time: LTL shipping might take longer than FTL, as goods are consolidated and de-consolidated along the route.
  • Handling: Your shipment will be handled more frequently, as it’s loaded and unloaded with other cargo, which increases the risk of damage (though this is still minimal).

5. Ideal For:

  • Small to Medium-Sized Businesses: Perfect for businesses that don’t regularly ship large volumes.
  • Non-Urgent Shipments: If you have a flexible timeline, LTL can be a cost-effective option.

In short, LTL is a practical, budget-friendly shipping option for smaller freight loads, offering a balance of efficiency and economy. It’s like the public bus of the freight world: not as fast as a taxi (FTL), but more economical and just as reliable!

Best LTL Carriers

LTL shipping is like the unsung hero of the logistics world. It’s like carpooling, but for freight. Instead of filling an entire truck with your goods, you share the space with other shippers. It’s economical, efficient, and sometimes, just a tiny bit quirky. Let’s dive into the crème de la crème of LTL shipping carriers in the USA, and find out what makes each one tick (and what occasionally makes them tock the wrong way).

1. FedEx Freight

    • Pros: It’s FedEx, folks. They’re like the cool, reliable big brother in the shipping world. Their tracking system? Chef’s kiss. Plus, they’ve got a vast network that covers practically every nook and cranny of the USA.
    • Cons: With great power comes great… well, prices. They can be a bit on the expensive side. And sometimes, their delivery estimates are more like guesstimates.


2. Old Dominion Freight Line

    • Pros: These guys are the ninjas of the LTL world. Superb on-time delivery rates and less handling of freight, which means fewer chances of your precious cargo turning into a modern art piece.
    • Cons: Their stellar service comes at a price, and their accessibility might be a bit limited in certain areas.


3. XPO Logistics

    • Pros: XPO is like the Swiss Army knife of logistics. They offer a buffet of services, including some nifty expedited shipping options.
    • Cons: Their tracking system can sometimes feel like you’re trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Also, their customer service can be a hit or miss.


4. Central Transport

    • Pros: Central Transport is the old-school cool kid. They’ve been around the block and know all the shortcuts. Good for heavy shipments and they’ve got a strong presence in North America.
    • Cons: They’ve seen better days in terms of financial stability. Also, their tracking technology might not be the most cutting-edge.


5. Estes Express Lines

    • Pros: Family-owned charm with corporate-level efficiency. Estes is known for their reliable service and friendly customer support.
    • Cons: They might not be the fastest ponies in the race, and their online tracking feels a bit last-decade.


6. ABF Freight

    • Pros: ABF shines in handling fragile and time-sensitive shipments. Their security and handling are top-notch.
    • Cons: Sometimes, their prices reflect their quality service. Also, they might not be the quickest option for coast-to-coast delivery.


7. Saia LTL Freight

    • Pros: Saia is like the cool, new kid in town. They’ve been expanding rapidly and offer great technology integration.
    • Cons: With rapid expansion comes growing pains. They might have some inconsistencies in service quality as they grow.


Choosing the right LTL carrier is like picking your favorite ice cream flavor – it depends on what you value most. Price, speed, reliability, or maybe just a friendly voice on the other end of the phone. Each carrier has its unique flavor, so choose the one that satisfies your logistics sweet tooth!


Carrier Name Coverage Area Specialized Services Customer Satisfaction
FedEx Freight Nationwide Advanced tracking, expedited options High
Old Dominion Freight Line Nationwide Superior on-time delivery, less handling of freight Very High
XPO Logistics Nationwide Wide range of services, expedited shipping Moderate to High
YRC Freight North America Heavy shipments, extensive network Varies
Estes Express Lines Nationwide Family-owned charm, reliable service High
ABF Freight Nationwide Fragile and time-sensitive shipments High
Saia LTL Freight Nationwide Technological innovation, expanding network Moderate to High


  • The “Coverage Area” for all listed carriers is broadly “Nationwide”, but there may be specific regional strengths or limitations within that.
  • “Customer Satisfaction” ratings are generalized and can vary. For the most accurate and current feedback, consulting specific customer reviews or industry surveys is recommended.
Environmental Efficiency of LTL Shipping

Sure, you simply need to indicate that your car is in inoperable condition. In this case shipping company will hire a trailer with winch to load your car.

LTL shipping plays a crucial role in e-commerce

LTL fills this niche perfectly. It allows small and medium-sized businesses to ship their products at a fraction of the cost of a full truckload, without waiting to accumulate enough goods to fill an entire truck.

LTL Shipping Rates

Picture yourself as a chef in the grand kitchen of logistics, about to whip up some LTL rates. Like any good recipe, there are key ingredients and a process to follow. Let’s break it down:


1. The Main Ingredient: Freight Classification

Think of this as the base of your dish. In the LTL world, every item has a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) code based on factors like density, stowability, handling, and liability. It’s like categorizing pasta: Is it light and fluffy like angel hair or heavy and sturdy like rigatoni?


2. Weighing In: Shipment Weight

Just like in cooking, where the amount of chicken you use can change the whole dish, the weight of your shipment is crucial. More weight typically means a better rate, but remember, it’s all about balance.


3. Distance: The Spice of Shipping

The journey from Point A to Point B adds flavor. The longer the haul, the more complex (and sometimes expensive) the recipe becomes.


4. Adding Some Extras: Accessorial Charges

These are your seasonings and garnishes. Need a liftgate? That’s a sprinkle of extra cost. Residential delivery? A dash of additional fees. Like a truffle oil, they can add significant flavor but at a price.


5. The Secret Sauce: Fuel Surcharges

This is the variable spice in your dish, fluctuating with the market. As fuel prices go up or down, so do your surcharges. It’s the garlic of the shipping world – essential but always adjusting.


6. The Taste Test: Minimums

Most carriers have a minimum charge, like a minimum flavor profile. Even if your shipment is as light as a feather, it needs to meet this basic cost threshold.


7. Seasonal Fluctuations: Like Holiday Cooking

Just as you’d prepare a bigger turkey for Thanksgiving, expect rates to fluctuate during peak seasons. Higher demand can mean higher prices.


Discounts: The Loyalty Card

Regular shippers can often negotiate discounts. Think of it like those punch cards at your favorite coffee shop – keep shipping, and you might just get a deal.


Serving the Dish: Getting a Quote To see how your concoction turned out, you’ll need to get a quote. Every carrier’s recipe is slightly different, so prices can vary. Use online calculators or contact carriers directly to see how your dish stacks up.


The After-Dinner Mint: Understanding and Negotiation Once you’ve got your rates, don’t be afraid to negotiate or ask questions. Understanding this recipe can give you the upper hand in getting the best deal for your LTL shipping needs.

Remember, LTL rate calculations can be as much art as science, with a sprinkle of negotiation and a dash of market understanding. Happy shipping, and may your logistics endeavors be as successful as a well-executed soufflé!


Let’s consider 1 pallet shipping and in 10 states and compare three types of services: Standard Service, Expedited Service, and Dedicated Shipping. The states we’ll use are California (CA), Texas (TX), New York (NY), Florida (FL), Illinois (IL), Pennsylvania (PA), Ohio (OH), Georgia (GA), Michigan (MI), and Washington (WA).

State (From/To) Standard Service ($) Expedited Service ($) Dedicated Shipping ($)
CA to TX 250 500 1100
TX to NY 280 560 1220
NY to FL 360 620 1440
FL to IL 370 640 1280
IL to PA 240 580 1160
PA to OH 230 460 1120
OH to GA 250 500 1300
GA to MI 360 520 1350
MI to WA 490 690 1460
WA to CA 380 660 1520


  • These prices are a subject to change
  • Actual and current prices would depend on factors like the exact origin and destination within each state, the weight and dimensions of the pallet, the freight class, and the current market conditions.
  • For accurate pricing, it’s recommended to get a quote directly from the LTL carriers or use online freight quote tools.

This table gives a ballpark idea of how prices might compare across different states and services, but for the most accurate and current rates, direct consultation with carriers is essential.

LTL Classification

Certainly! The world of LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) shipping can sometimes feel like a secret society with its own language, and freight classification is a big part of that language. Understanding LTL classification is like decoding a secret code that unlocks the mysteries of shipping costs. So, let’s crack the code!

1. The ABCs of Freight Classification:

  • LTL shipments are categorized into 18 freight classes by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). These classes are numbered from 50 to 500.
  • The classification is based on four factors: density, stowability, handling, and liability. Think of it as a dating profile for your freight, where each factor tells something important about its personality.

2. Density: The Heavyweight Champion:

  • Density is the space your item occupies in relation to its weight. Picture a feather vs. a brick: same size, but wildly different weights.
  • The general rule is: the heavier your item for its size (higher density), the lower the freight class. Bricks would be in a lower class than feathers.

3. Stowability: Plays Well with Others:

  • This looks at how easy it is to stow and transport the freight. Odd shapes or hazardous materials that need special handling can bump up the freight class.
  • If your freight is the awkward guy at the party (hard to handle or needs special attention), it might be in a higher class.

4. Handling: Handle with Care (Or Not):

  • Handling considers how easy it is to handle the freight. Fragile or delicate items that require special care are in higher classes.
  • Think of it as the difference between shipping a set of sturdy books and a delicate porcelain vase.

5. Liability: The Risk Factor:

  • Liability covers the freight’s probability of theft, damage, or breaking other goods. High-risk items (like explosives or high-value goods) fall into higher classes.
  • It’s like assessing whether your freight is a well-behaved pet or a wild animal.

6. The Impact of Classification on Cost:

  • The lower the class, the lower the rate per hundred pounds, and vice versa. It’s like a sliding scale of shipping economics.
  • Remember, misclassification can lead to unexpected charges. It’s like ordering a steak and getting billed for a lobster.

7. Navigating the Classification Waters:

  • Always double-check your freight classification. Mistakes can be costly and time-consuming.
  • If in doubt, consult the NMFC database, or better yet, get help from a freight expert. They’re like the navigators in the stormy sea of LTL shipping.

Understanding LTL classification is crucial in getting the most accurate and cost-effective shipping rate. It’s a bit like being a detective, where getting the details right can lead to significant savings and smoother shipping experiences.


These classes are determined by the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) and are based on factors like density, stowability, handling, and liability. The classes range from 50 to 500, with lower classes generally indicating denser and less fragile items.

Here’s a simplified overview:

Freight Class Density (lbs per cubic foot) Example Items
Class 50 Over 50 Heavy machinery, bricks, metals
Class 55 35 to 50 Hardware, engines, unpackaged auto parts
Class 60 30 to 35 Car accessories, machine parts
Class 65 22.5 to 30 Bottled beverages, books in boxes
Class 70 15 to 22.5 Auto parts, food items
Class 77.5 13.5 to 15 Tires, bathroom fixtures
Class 85 12 to 13.5 Crated machinery, cast iron stoves
Class 92.5 10.5 to 12 Furniture, assembled auto parts
Class 100 9 to 10.5 Household goods, car covers, canvas goods
Class 110 8 to 9 Cabinets, framed artwork, table saws
Class 125 7 to 8 Small household appliances
Class 150 6 to 7 Auto sheet metal parts, bookcases
Class 175 5 to 6 Clothing, couches, stuffed furniture
Class 200 4 to 5 Mattresses and box springs, plasma TVs
Class 250 3 to 4 Bamboo furniture, plastic tableware
Class 300 2 to 3 Wood cabinets, tables, chairs setup, model boats
Class 400 1 to 2 Deer antlers, ping pong tables
Class 500 Less than 1 Bags of gold dust, ping pong balls

Please note:

  • Density: The weight per cubic foot of the item.
  • Example Items: These are just illustrative examples and the actual classification can vary based on other factors.
  • Other Factors: Stowability, handling, and liability also impact classification but are not directly represented in this table.

For precise classification, it’s crucial to refer to the NMFC directory or consult with a freight expert. Misclassifying freight can lead to additional charges and delays.

LTL shipping FAQ

  1. What is LTL Shipping?
    • LTL stands for Less-Than-Truckload, a shipping method used for freight that doesn’t require the full space of a truck. Think of it as carpooling for cargo – your shipment shares truck space with others, making it a cost-effective option for smaller loads.
  2. When Should I Use LTL Shipping?
    • It’s ideal for shipments too large for parcel post but too small to fill an entire truck. If your freight is between 150 and 10,000 pounds and you’re okay with a slightly longer transit time, LTL is your friend.
  3. How Are LTL Shipping Rates Calculated?
    • Rates depend on several factors: the freight’s weight and dimensions, its freight class (based on density, stowability, handling, and liability), the distance it’s traveling, and any additional services like liftgate or inside delivery.
  4. What is Freight Class?
    • Freight class is a standardized classification system used in LTL shipping. It categorizes goods based on density, handling, stowability, and liability. Classes range from 50 to 500, with lower classes generally indicating denser, less fragile items.
  5. Can I Track My LTL Shipment?
    • Yes! Most LTL carriers offer tracking services, allowing you to monitor your shipment’s progress through a tracking number.
  6. Is LTL Shipping Safe for Fragile Items?
    • While LTL shipping is generally safe, remember that your shipment will be handled more frequently than in FTL (Full Truckload) shipping. Proper packaging and labeling as fragile are essential to minimize risk.
  7. How Long Does LTL Shipping Take?
    • Delivery times can vary based on the route, distance, and the carrier’s network. Generally, LTL shipping takes longer than FTL due to multiple stops and transfers.
  8. Can I Ship Hazardous Materials via LTL?
    • Yes, but not all carriers handle hazardous materials. You’ll need to declare such items when booking, and ensure they are properly packaged and labeled according to regulations.
  9. What is a Liftgate Service in LTL Shipping?
    • A liftgate is a mechanical device used to raise and lower goods from the ground to the truck level. It’s handy if the pickup or delivery location doesn’t have a loading dock.
  10. How Do I Prepare My Shipment for LTL Transport?
    • Package your items securely in crates or on pallets, label each package clearly, and ensure the freight is stable and not likely to shift during transport.