What are the differences between an FTL, LTL and a Groupage transport?
What are the differences between an FTL, LTL and a Groupage transport?
9 December 2022 - by: Silvia Pedrotti

What are the differences between an FTL, LTL and a Groupage transport?

Transport jargon language may sound cryptic to a layman. A classic categorisation of freight transfers is to call them FTL or LTL. But what do these acronyms mean? What are the main characteristics of these goods movements and what are their strengths? And above all, what differentiates them from a Groupage transport?

FTL, LTL and Groupage: what are the differences?

FTL (Full Truck Load): a complete load is defined in this way, i.e. a transport that makes the entire vehicle bed available to the customer. This solution is particularly suitable for moving bulky goods travelling in large quantities. It is therefore advantageous as the price is spread over a larger quantity of goods and is also particularly fast in delivery since the route is directed to the destination indicated by the customer. The only parameter that can affect the quantity/price ratio of an FTL transport is the load capacity of the vehicle. In fact, there are limits that regulate the maximum weight that can be loaded onto the vehicle and that may vary depending on the country in which you are transiting. Therefore, customers handling heavy goods will have to check this item to better manage their transfers.

LTL (Less than Truck Load): this term is used for the transport of a substantial quantity of goods that occupy only part of the vehicle's loading bed. The remaining space will be 'filled' with the goods of other customers who will then share the same vehicle to optimise the cost of transport. The logic is therefore to obtain a complete FTL load consisting of several LTL shipments by generating a transfer with similar characteristics to those described above. The main difference is longer delivery times, since it will take time to find matchable loads and since the transport will be subject to multiple loading and delivery points. Finally, and as a consequence of its very nature, pricing is variable as it will depend on the weight/volume of each individual consignment of goods and the combination of the various LTLs grouped together.

Groupage: this term is used to describe a shipping method that groups and consolidates small consignments of goods from different shippers into a single load. Groupage shipments are usually smaller in quantity than an LTL and weigh on average no more than 2500kg. In the course of its journey, the goods are subject to being loaded and unloaded at consolidation points that are in line towards the final destination, and it is always possible to identify its punctual position through the tracking service. It is precisely this 'step-by-step' strategy that enables the customer to obtain competitive and particularly convenient pricing. On the other hand, it is precisely because of the transfers from one hub to another and depending on the number of pulls and warehouse steps required to make the shipment, that delivery times may be slightly longer than those for direct deliveries.

With this information at hand, it should be easier to make an informed choice and understand when to decide on FTL, LTL or Groupage transport. However, there are special cases that are perhaps not clearly identifiable with a precise dividing line. FERCAM has been in the transport business for more than 70 years and our specialists are always on hand to offer maximum support and help customers choose the most suitable and convenient solution in relation to the volume of goods, timeframe and distance to be travelled. Do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.