When it comes to shipping freight, there’s a lot of terminologies that get thrown around. Often you’re drowning in acronyms, and it can be hard to know what the best shipping method is for your cargo. There’s FTL, LTL, FCL, and LCL, but what does it all mean? Once and for all, we’re breaking down the abbreviations and explaining the key terms used to describe transportation methods.

There are two main methods of shipping freight: trucks and ships. When it comes to trucks, the two key terms are full truckloads (FTL) and less-than-truckloads (LTL). Full container load (FCL) and less than container load (LCL) are simply the ocean container versions of the same concepts. But which shipping method is best for you?

Less Than Truckload (LTL)

A warehouse utilizing less than truckload shipping

Less than truckload, or LTL, shipping means your total shipment does not take up an entire truck. These shipments often weigh less than 10,000 pounds and require no more than 11 feet of trailer space. Shipments from other companies use the remaining space in the truck. The right LTL provider can leverage national and regional carrier networks, allowing trucks to stop periodically and optimize loads with other drivers. This advantage enables the trucks to minimize the distance from where goods need to be delivered. The main benefit of the LTL shipment method is you only pay for the space on the truck that you need. If you don’t ship in large quantities and are looking for something budget-friendly, consider less than truckload shipping. If your shipment is sturdy and you’re not under a time restraint, LTL shipping can be a great option. Read about the benefits of utilizing Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Shipping.

Full Truckload (FTL)

Full truckload shipping done by BR Williams

Full truckload, or FTL, shipping refers to shipments that utilize an entire truck. A full truckload means the shipment contains nothing but your products, allowing you greater control over the shipping process. Businesses opt for FTL shipping when ten or more pallets need to be shipped. Generally, it’s pretty clear when you need to spring for FTL shipping. This method of shipment is quicker due to fewer stops, but as a result, it generally costs more than LTL.

Full Container Load (FCL)

Full container load shipping offered by BR Williams

Full container load, or FCL, shipping is similar to FTL shipping via truck. In this case, the cargo is transported over the ocean. FCL refers to an ocean shipment that utilizes all the space inside a container. The standard size of an FCL shipment is six pallets in a 20-foot container and 12 pallets in a 40-foot container. Given the dedicated space, FCL shipping is best for large volume or valuable shipments. This option eliminates the risk of possible contamination or damages as the container is dedicated to your product only. Plus, there are no stops or transfers with FCL shipping. Your shipment goes directly to your destination, making it a faster option if time is a concern.

Less Than Container Load (LCL)

A BR Williams truck being prepared for a less than container load (LCL).

Less than container load, or LCL, shipping, means your shipments only take up a part of a container. LCL shipping is ideal for small- to medium-sized businesses with smaller shipments. The total shipment usually falls below the minimum threshold of six to 12 pallets. It isn’t bulky or dense enough to require a full container load. If you’re launching a new product or may not have the demand to fill an entire container, LCL shipping might be right for you. With this option, you only pay for the space you use and share the rest, making it cost-effective and flexible means to ship.

When you’re selecting a shipment method for your freight, it’s essential to keep in mind its size, your budget, how fragile your cargo is, and any time requirements. Based on your shipment requirements, BR Williams can work together with you to deploy FTL, LTL, FCL, or LCL shipping. With white-glove care, BR Williams treats your freight like it’s our own. They are continuously improving their trucking services, and offer additional supply chain services like warehousing, distributions, and logistics. Also, BR Williams offers a customer-facing web portal, allowing you instant access to shipment statuses, quotes, documents, and more. To learn more about BR Williams and what shipping methods are best for your cargo, contact us today for a quote.

The difference between FTL, LTL, FCL, and LCL shipping infographic
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