Differences between FTL, Partial truckload and LTL freight shipping [updated]

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In this post you will discover the characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of three freight shipping services: Full truck or FTL, Partial truckload and Less than Truckload  or LTL. We will answer questions such as:

What is the difference between FTL, Partial truckload and LTL freight shipping?
What is the maximum capacity of the full truck, the Partial Truckload and Less than Truckload services?
What is the best freight option to transport my goods between Mexico, the United States and Canada at the best cost or at the highest speed?

At the end of the post, you will be able to determine which service meets your specific freight transportation needs.

The main difference between FTL, Partial Truckload and LTL

In very general terms, we could say that the full truck service (FTL) is recommended for large and heavy loads, which occupy all or most of the trailer, while the partial truckload transport service is the most economical if less than 30 linear feet of the trailer will be occupied. Lastly, a Less than Truckload service (LTL) is the best option for smaller loads.

There are other aspects to take into account to fully understand these three transport services. We will start by defining each one.


load specifications for parcial ftl and ltl services

What is full truck transport or FTL?

FTL or Full Truckload is the ground transportation service in which a complete truck is dedicated to a single load or, in other words,  to a single customer. The FTL transport service is suitable for large loads, that are capable of occupying a complete truck. It is also the preferred option for delicate loads or for loads that require regulated temperature.

Full Truckload (FTL) specs:

  • Up to 26 non-stackable pallets or up to 52 stackable pallets of standard sizes. Remember the pallet’s standard measures: 48 “x 40” x 48 “.
  • The total weight of the load should be 44,000 pounds or 21.7 tons.

What is partial truckload freight shipping?

Partial truckload transportation is the ideal and most economical transportation option for larger loads that do not require to use all the space available on a full trailer. It is more affordable than the Full Truckload freight service because the customer doesn’t pay for a dedicated trailer. In a partial truckload mode, customers have the opportunity to ship larger loads than allowed in a Less Than Truckload,  LTL, transport service.

Partial truckload freight specifications:

Minimum 12 linear feet and maximum 30 linear feet
The minimum weight of the load should be 1,000 pounds and the maximum 25,000 pounds.

Maximum weight per pallet should be 5500 pounds

Within the FTL and Partial Truckload options, you can choose three different types of equipment, depending on the characteristics of your load:

  • Dry Vans: Recommended for delicate loads or for loads that need to be transported in a closed box, protected against external weather conditions.

  • Reefers or temperature-controlled trucks: For loads that must be kept at specific temperatures. For example, frozen or fresh products.

Now let’s see, What is Less Than Truckload LTL freight transport?

Less Than Truckload shipping or LTL is the transportation of freight that combines shipments from multiple customers in a single truck. In other words, as every customer’s shipment does not require a full 48′ or 53′ trailer, the portion of the truck unused is filled up with another customer’s shipment. Each customer pays according to the type (class), amount, weight, size and density of shipment and the length of travel. That is why LTL transport is the most affordable option between the different land transport services.

Less Than Truckload (LTL) specs:

  • From 1 to 3 non-stackable pallets and up to 6 stackable pallets of standard sizes. Remember  standard size of a pallet: 48 “x 40” x 48 “.
  • The total weight of the load should be 10,000 pounds or 4.5 tons


Differences between the Full Truckload service, the Partial truckload and the Less Than Truckload service in terms of speed and costs

transit times differences for parcial ftl and ltl shipments


If your priority is to reduce transit times, the best option for you is the FTL. In the Full truckload transport service (FTL) the cargo is transported from point A to point B without intermediate stops, so it is the fastest transportation service of land transportation options.

In the case of Less Than Truckload (LTL) transport services, the transit times are longer because it makes several stops before reaching its final destination. However, Mexicom Logistics can provide LTL services with a balance between speed and price. How do we do it? We chose the most convenient route to reduce the number of loading and unloading points. In addition, we combine our customers’ loads with other customer’s loads that have very similar routes. In this way, we achieve to provide the fastest LTL possible.

The Partial truckload freight service represents the middle point between the FTL and LTL service in terms of speed. In international services between Mexico and the United States / Canada, the cargo must be transloaded at the Mexico -USA border crossing. This may represent a longer transit time.




costs differences for parcial ftl and ltl shipments


If your cargo is large enough, the full truck (FTL) is still your best choice in terms of costs.

If your load occupies between 12 and 30 linear feet, the partial truckload transport service could be up to 50% cheaper than the FTL option.

If your cargo is small, the most affordable service will be the Less Than Truckload (LTL). By definition, the LTL transport service is the cheapest service because the total cost of transport is divided among several customers.

The particularity of the Partial truckload service

The partial truckload freight shipping mode is only available in the United States and Canada. However, at Mexicom Logistics, we can give you access to this possibility all across North America. We transport your cargo in Mexico in FTL mode and transload it at the Mexico-USA border to a truck that offers the Partial truckload service across the United States and Canada. In this way, we give you the opportunity to take advantage of the great economic advantage that partial load transportation represents.





Marben Acosta Teran oversees the overall international B2B marketing strategy for Mexicom Logistics. She is passionate about building a solid brand while creating useful content for its audience. Marben loves learning more about the industry and being part of the Mexicom family.
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interesting facts about the differences in trucking among canada, the us and mexicoDifferences between through (direct) trailer vs transloading in the USA-Mexico border for ground freight.