Abbreviation for Less Than Truckload

What is LTL?

The concept of LTL is defined as a means of transport dedicated to small loads. It is suited whenever a delivery is not able to occupy a full truck in terms of weight or volume. A special rate applies, as well as a logistical solution well-adapted to this type of service. This option is mostly chosen for transporting a limited number of pallets.

LTL means optimizing deliveries and boosting a vehicle fleet’s profitability whilst minimizing operating costs. Transport companies specialized in less than truckload quantities are available. LTL therefore applies under exceptional circumstances, or can be integrated directly into a transport professional’s management and logistics process.

When transport requires a trailer, we then talk about LCL, i.e. "Less than Container Load". The methods and resources rolled out actually come close to freight groupage (goods). LTL is the opposite of TL (Truck Load), that consists in occupying a truck’s entire storage area.

Specificities of LTL, highlighting 4 main principles

To better grasp its ensuing logistical and economic advantages, LTL stands out in four ways:

  • It concerns the transport of small quantities of goods, that do not meet TL requirements;

  • Service pricing can be adapted to each customer, with shared expenses: taxes, fuel surcharge, customs duties, etc.;

  • This means of transport is particularly well-adapted to the “just-in-time” storage method;

  • LTL can be applied to short or long distances: import-export solutions, local deliveries, etc.

Examples and practical applications

The logistics rolled out for LTL take several organizational factors into consideration:

  • The goods’ weight and volume;

  • The type of freight: dangerous goods, pallets, foodstuff, etc.;

  • The journey planned;

  • The delivery date.

Planning stages take into consideration the customer’s availability, as well as the various unloading points. Depending on the distance and number of stages to be respected, a LTL transport job may take one or several days. This also depends on how widespread the delivery is: national or international.

Economic benefits are at play for both the transporter and the customers. The latter are provided with an economic solution allowing them to share any ancillary transport costs. As such, every customer pays for the space occupied instead of the full load. For the company in charge of delivery, it is easier to guarantee fleet profitability, whilst generating larger benefits.

LTL is suited to all types of goods, thus meeting extremely disparate needs. It all depends on the service provider called upon: some have vehicles dedicated to residential delivery, and others have refrigerated trucks to avoid the cold from being broken.

LTL in figures

On a European scale, LTL covers about 40% of road transport dedicated to the transport of goods. This represents a 200,000-vehicle fleet, called upon for partial-load deliveries. The annual increase for this type of load is of 30% on average, compared to the transport of full truckloads.

Regarding import, France and Portugal are the countries that most resort to LTL, covering close to 65% of the market. These figures can partly be explained by orders made in small quantities, with adjustable rates according to volume.


Regulatory cornerstones

  • Transport Code

  • European Social Regulation no. 561/2006 dated 15 March 2006 pertaining to truck driver driving times

  • Customs regulations and legislation on international trade