• ITVI.USA
    15,411.130
    -4.180
    0%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.740
    -0.021
    -0.8%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.110
    0.000
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,375.870
    -11.650
    -0.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.140
    0.190
    6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.590
    0.150
    10.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.330
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.170
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -1.000
    -0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,411.130
    -4.180
    0%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.740
    -0.021
    -0.8%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.110
    0.000
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,375.870
    -11.650
    -0.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.140
    0.190
    6.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.590
    0.150
    10.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.330
    0.020
    0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.170
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.080
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -1.000
    -0.8%
NewsShared TruckloadSponsored InsightsTrucking

Why you’ll never give the partial, LTL or truckload shipping modes your midsize freight again

Faster, safer, better — these consumer expectations for e-commerce delivery are driving a speed-focused freight market. This need for speed has inspired e-tail giants like Amazon to set new shipping standards for same-day delivery. The only way for manufacturers and shippers to provide such quick service? Sending products right away.

Historically, shippers with 10-28 linear feet of freight have had three types of service to choose from:

  • Partial truckload (PTL)
  • Volume less-than truckload (VLTL)
  • Truckload (TL)

For shippers with freight in that linear-foot range, the PTL, VLTL, and TL modes pose a unique challenge in the form of a price/service trade-off. Given the three service options, shippers:

  • Risk longer transit times by moving partials through a clunky network of consolidators
  • Pay unnaturally high rates for VLTL service that might damage shipments, deliver freight late, or prioritize smaller loads in tight markets
  • Buy pricey TL deck space the freight can’t fill

You see the predicament.

So how can shippers with in-between freight sizes navigate performance, risk, and cost (the price/service trade-off) given current demand, while building more efficient supply chains? The answer lies in a new freight mode, called “shared truckload” (STL).

As we dive into each freight mode, shippers should consider their top priorities and explore all options. Supply chains that leverage innovative solutions like STL will find new ways to ship freight without delay and meet rising consumer expectations.

Partial truckload (PTL)

For the most part, partials move via freight consolidators (asset-light less-than truckload carriers) that specialize in specific regions. While these service providers run partials through fewer warehouses than VLTL carriers, a PTL load can avoid facilities altogether if it can catch a ride with a small TL shipment. However, capacity can be spotty; partials that move through the TL network are subject to market conditions and the availability of a niche carrier base. To facilitate transportation for 10-28 linear feet of freight, mid-market and enterprise shippers who need a national reach and desire cost savings tend to get quotes from many consolidators or hire brokers with large networks. This mode doesn’t require freight classification and sometimes separates cargo that’s part of the same shipment.

The benefits of partial truckload include:

  • Fewer stops than VLTL
  • No freight-class requirement (fewer fines and fees)

The disadvantages of partial truckload include:

  • Regional capacity
  • Higher potential for long transit times
  • Higher potential for damage
  • Higher potential for split-up shipments

The consolidation process causes the primary drawbacks of this mode. Because carriers match multiple partials at warehouses after pickup, one load’s delivery transit doesn’t begin until a facility has accumulated enough freight to top off a whole truck. As a result, partials that don’t fill a truck to capacity wait at warehouses before traveling to their delivery locations. Whether loads idle at consolidation facilities or jump on a truck immediately, the amount of handling inevitably leads to damage.

Additionally, the potential for scattered loads means freight in the same shipment might arrive at different times. 

The difficulties of delivering freight on time and intact are enough to make any shipper rethink the decision to use this mode. Ultimately, both of these challenges make supply chains less efficient, slowing down delivery and threatening customer satisfaction. 

Volume less-than truckload (VLTL)

Volume less-than truckload is an alternative for shippers with 10-28 linear feet of freight. VLTL shipments move through the less-than truckload (LTL) hub-and-spoke system, zigzagging between several trucks and one to seven terminals. This amount of handling makes the hub-and-spoke network most efficient for LTL shipments, not VLTL ones. As a result, the LTL system prioritizes smaller freight over larger freight, dropping VLTL shipments in tight markets.

The benefits of VLTL include:

  • Consistent, nationwide capacity (travels through the hub-and-spoke system)

The disadvantages of VLTL include:

  • Fluctuating linear-foot caps
  • Higher rates of damage and loss
  • Higher potential for split-up shipments
  • Greater delays
  • Unsophisticated shipment tracking
  • Freight-class requirement (potentially more fines and fees)

Lately, the cost of VLTL service has risen substantially. While rates for smaller VLTL shipments (just above the 10 linear-foot mark) are similar to the pricing of other shipping modes, costs for larger loads are significantly higher.

Another issue is LTL carriers’ habit of changing size cutoffs to better suit existing infrastructure, which leaves VLTL freight in the lurch. The result of clogged LTL facilities? Higher prices, unpredictable service, and rejections of loads over 10-12 linear feet. When the hub-and-spoke system overflows with small shipments, it squeezes out shippers in the mid-size category, who, in turn, opt to book other freight modes. 

Additionally, a VLTL shipment can encounter capacity challenges due to a carrier’s preference to move smaller freight. VLTL shipments are logistically challenging to move and take the back seat to freight that’s easier to haul. The result? Unpredictable transit times for VLTL freight.

Lastly, like LTL shipments, VLTL shipments incur higher risk of damage, loss, and delay. Other disadvantages of VLTL take the form of ambiguous tracking updates and the potential for freight-class charges.

To summarize, VLTL shipping hardly gives mid-size loads quality service. Prolonged transit and ever-changing size requirements are signs of inefficiency.

Truckload (TL)

TL (or “exclusive use”) is a well-established shipping mode that operates with consistent capacity around the country. With TL, loads from a single shipper move directly from their pickup locations to their destinations. Because shipments stay on one truck for the duration of transit, they’re easy to track and incur almost no damage or load separation. With TL shipping, trucks move immediately, whether they’re half empty or completely full.

The benefits of TL shipping include:

  • Consistent, nationwide capacity
  • Direct transit
  • Minimal handling and low risk of damage
  • Accurate shipment tracking
  • Predictable delivery windows
  • No freight-class requirement (fewer fines and fees)

This disadvantages of TL shipping include:

  • Highest cost (wasted money on unused space)

TL service is efficient in terms of transit time, keeps freight intact, and offers enhanced shipment tracking. However, the TL mode wastes truck space and capital. Shippers can prevent this waste of deck space, money, and fuel by booking shared truckload, which gives shippers the TL service they’re used to at a lower cost.

Shared truckload (STL)

Like TL shipping, shared truckload is completely hubless. Shared truckload freight moves directly from its pickup location to its destination — without passing through hubs or terminals. Unlike TL (and the other modes), shared truckload enables several shippers to share trailer space in one multi-stop full truckload. With shared truckload, shipments that are traveling on a similar route move on the same truck.

Shared truckload applies the concept of carpooling to shipping, optimizing truck space and keeping shipments in the same load together.

The benefits of shared truckload include:

  • Consistent, nationwide capacity
  • Direct transit
  • Minimal handling and low risk of damage
  • No potential for split-up shipments
  • Accurate shipment tracking
  • Predictable delivery windows
  • No freight-class requirement (fewer fines and fees)
  • Cost savings
Mode comparison chartPTLVLTLTLSTL
Nationwide reachx
Direct transitxx
Low risk of damagexx
No load separationxx
Sophisticated shipment trackingxx
Predictable delivery windowsxx
No hidden fees or accessorialsxx

Because shippers pay only for the space their freight requires, shared truckload provides TL-style shipping for a fraction of the cost. Shared truckload shippers can send freight when it’s ready and trust it to arrive on time, in full.

STL shippers can count on capacity, too. Because carriers earn more per mile on multi-stop shared truckloads, STL shipments are more attractive than VLTL and partial loads.

Ultimately, shared truckload gives shippers what they need: efficient and reliable shipping for less. This mode drives efficiency within supply chains by allowing shippers to send goods when they’re ready, leveraging hubless transit, and optimizing shipping budgets.

If you want to strengthen your supply chain with these benefits, book Flock Freight’s shared truckload service: FlockDirect. Not only does FlockDirect give you complete control over your pickup and delivery dates, it automatically offsets the carbon output of all freight. Learn more about Flock Freight’s carbon neutral shipping solution here.

Choose the mode that’s best-suited for partials

In conclusion, shippers with freight that measures 10-28 linear feet can manage the price/service trade-off of the partial, VLTL, and TL shipping modes (while building more efficient supply chains) by selecting the shipping mode with the highest performance level and lowest price.

Next time you find yourself choosing between consolidators, the hub-and-spoke system, and TL shipping, remember your fourth option: Flock Freight’s shared truckload solution, FlockDirect.

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Sponsors occasionally contribute content tor FreightWaves.com. To qualify, the content must be properly labeled as the sponsor's content, and it must not conflict with FreightWaves editorial policies. Contact Preston Brown at pbrown@freightwaves.com for details.

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