Businesses that ship products quickly become aware of the many options available. On many occasions, you’ll have items you need to ship but there’s no way you can fill an entire truck. Partial truckload (PTL) and less-than-truckload (LTL) services give shippers the option of sending items to a location on an ongoing basis, whether they’re shipping a few pallets or a complete load.

Third-party logistics providers specialize in pairing shippers with the transportation services they need. Experts in logistics know how to find the right truck to fulfill the shippers needs.  If the shipper only needs 20 feet of space in a truck, logistics professionals have the knowledge and resources to match that carrier needing a 20 foot load with the shipper that needs 20 feet of truck space. But PTL and LTL can be confusing, since they seem, on the surface, to refer to the same thing. However, there are distinct differences between the two.



Full Truckload

To understand the difference between PTL and LTL, it can help to familiarize yourself with the term FTL, which simply refers to a full truckload. The FTL terminology is applied when a truck is dedicated to one shipment, which utilizes the entire truck for the full trip. This understandably generally costs more, since the truck will be taken over by that shipper for the duration of the dispatch. Of course, this type of shipping is more efficient, since there are no other pickups scheduled along the route, which means the truck is dedicated to ensuring the shipper’s items get where they need to go.


With LTL, multiple shipments are combined to fill an entire truck. This is great for small and mid-sized businesses, which have regular shipping needs but rarely can fill an entire truck. Logistics providers specialize in combining multiple LTL shipments into one trailer, saving money and ensuring that fleets make the most of every trip they take. By combining shipments, logistics providers are usually able to help businesses ship for far less than they’d pay for an entire truckload.

Partial Truckload

PTL the freight stays on the same truck but other freight is added to the truck. So with PTL there is less handling of the freight. Rates are based on how much space the freight takes on the truck. A Partial truckload is typically 4+ pallets. One downside to PTL is that it can take longer to get items from Point A to Point B, since each truck must make multiple stops along the way.

Differences Between PTL and LTL

The differences between PTL and LTL are not drastic. The main difference between Partial and LTL is that on a Partial, the freight almost always stays on the same truck from origination to destination. There is much more handling with an LTL. As for an LTL, it is primarily four or less pallets that are typically transferred from one to several times. LTL rates are based on class, size, or weight and tariffs.

Third-party logistics services can crunch the numbers to determine the shipping method that will work best for each business. Since there are so many factors involved, it’s best to work with an expert. Depending on your location and regular shipping needs, one of the three options may be better for you, even if it isn’t the right choice for many other businesses.

At GW Transportation Services, our motto is worry-free transportation with personality. If you’re interested in growing your business, a reliable 3PL provider will help. Please contact us or give us a call at (877) 260-1595 for a quick freight quote.