Category: Resources

Topic: Freight, LTL

What is the Difference Between Parcel and LTL

Parcel Vs LTL Shipments

Parcel vs LTL: What is the Difference

While there are similarities between small parcel and Less-than-Truckload (LTL) shipping, the two modes of transportation are completely different. Both modes transport shipments through a collection of terminals, but a key difference is the size and operations of the modes. This article will dive into what each of these modes are and the difference between parcel vs LTL.

Small Parcel Shipping: What is Parcel Shipping?

Parcel Shipping refers to the shipping of light, small boxed items. Typically, a parcel package weighs under 100 pounds or less and moves without additional assistance. This type of shipping is helpful to ship smaller items to a customer in a cheap, economical way.

Parcel carriers utilize shipping centers and distribution centers to move parcel shipments through a network to the delivery. A pickup and delivery driver will deliver shipments while picking up new shipments on their route. Once at the distribution center, workers scan shipments and load onto new trucks with similar destination and linehaul to the next center. At the destination center, the delivery driver will deliver the package to the receiver.

Less-than-Truckload: What is LTL Shipping?

LTL Shipping is a mode of transportation moving freight when a full truck is not necessary. Shipments will move through a network of terminals until the destination. Like small parcel, the carrier will utilize pick and deliver drivers to pick up and deliver the freight.

Key Differences Between the Two

Learning the difference between small parcel and LTL shipments is key to routing freight effectively. This section will discuss three important differences in the modes of transportation.

Shipment Size

The key difference between the two modes of transportation is the size and weight of the shipment. Small parcel ship smaller, loose boxes while LTL ships larger freight with boxes on pallets. LTL shipments are generally 1-6 pallets between 500 lbs and 5,000 lbs.

Operational Differences

The two modes of transportation share a similar idea of moving through a network of terminals and distribution centers until delivery. However, the loading and unloading of the shipments vary. Parcel workers load and unload shipments by hand onto conveyor belts. While less-than-truckload shipments utilize forklifts and pallet jacks to load and unload freight from trucks.

Another key difference in operation is in the pickup and delivery. LTL Carriers utilize box trucks or 53 foot dry vans to make pickup and deliveries. This equipment is hard to deliver in certain environments, such as residential areas, and the best suitable locations are commercial warehouses or locations with a dock. Parcel couriers deliver in generally any area due to their smaller delivery trucks and ability to handle the smaller packages.

Pricing Models

Parcel shipments are based on weight, dimensions, destination, and shipping speed. On the other hand, less-than-truckload shipments have a more complicated pricing structure. Weight, dimensions, destination are also important factors, but LTL pricing also considers freight class and services necessary for the loading, transit, or delivery of the product.

Freight classification in LTL is a part of the NMFC standard published by the National Moto Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). NMFTA evaluates and classifies products into specific freight class found in the NMFC number. Generally, the easier it is to move your freight, the lower the freight class and shipping cost.

Small Parcel vs LTL Example

A cosmetic product business would utilize parcel shipping when shipping 1-2 products direct to customers off their online site. However, the company might send bulk orders to retailers through LTL when there is a ton of boxes, but not enough for an entire truck.