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Understanding Partial Truckload Shipping: The Pros and Cons

Choosing the right shipping method for your cargo is a critical decision that can significantly impact your business's efficiency, costs, and overall success. With various options available, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, the process can be quite overwhelming. In this article, we will delve into one of these options - partial truckload shipping - and provide a comprehensive understanding of its pros and cons.

Partial truckload shipping, often abbreviated as PTL, is a popular choice for many businesses. However, like any shipping method, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. It has its own unique set of benefits and potential drawbacks, making it the perfect fit for some situations and a less-than-ideal option for others.

Let's break down PTL shipping in simple terms and help you decide whether it's a good fit for your business. We'll go over what it is, its pros and cons, when to use it, and how to get the most out of it.

By the end of this post, we hope you'll have a deeper understanding of PTL shipping, empowering you to make the most optimal logistics decisions for your business.

What is Partial Truckload Shipping?

Partial truckload (PTL) shipping fills the gap between less-than-truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL) shipping. It's the ideal option for shipments that are too large for LTL but don't require the full capacity of a truck, as in FTL.

The specific characteristics of a PTL shipment can vary, but they generally fall within the following ranges:

  • Total Cargo Weight: 5,000-30,000 pounds
  • Total Cargo Length: 8-30 feet
  • Total Pallet Count: 5-15 pallets

If your shipment falls within these dimensions, PTL shipping could be a practical and cost-effective solution.

While PTL shipping is applicable to a wide array of industries, it's particularly popular for transporting goods that are sensitive to multiple handling, requires faster transit times, or need more space than LTL shipping provides. Goods transported via PTL shipping are typically loaded onto the truck and stay there until delivery, reducing the risk of damage from frequent loading and unloading.

In terms of equipment, PTL shipping can make use of different types of trailers, including dry vans, flatbeds, step-decks, and other open-deck trailers. This versatility makes PTL a flexible option that can accommodate a wide variety of cargo types.

The Pros of Partial Truckload Shipping

When considering any shipping method, understanding its advantages is key. Here are some of the notable benefits of opting for partial truckload shipping:


One of the major benefits of PTL shipping is its cost-effectiveness. Since you're only paying for the space your freight occupies, you aren't bearing the cost of an entire truck when you don't need it. This makes PTL shipping a more economical choice for mid-sized shipments.


PTL shipping tends to be safer for your goods compared to other methods. Since the cargo is typically loaded onto the truck at the start of its journey and stays there until it reaches its destination, the risk of damage from repeated loading and unloading is minimized.

Faster Transit Times

With PTL shipping, your goods aren't making multiple stops to pick up and drop off other shipments like in LTL shipping. This can result in faster transit times and more predictable delivery schedules, making it easier for you to plan and manage your supply chain.


PTL shipping offers flexibility in terms of cargo types and sizes. Whether you're shipping palletized goods, machinery, or equipment, PTL can handle a variety of cargo, making it a versatile option for many businesses.

The Cons of Partial Truckload Shipping

Despite the benefits, partial truckload shipping isn't without its challenges. Here are some potential drawbacks to consider:

Limited Availability

PTL shipping relies on the availability of partial spaces on trucks. This means that availability can fluctuate depending on the current demand for truck space, which can lead to potential delays or increased costs during busy periods.

Inconsistent Transit Times

While PTL shipping can provide faster transit times compared to LTL, it's also subject to variability. Factors such as the specific route, traffic conditions, and the availability of trucks can all impact transit times, which might make scheduling more challenging.

Not Suitable for Smaller Shipments

PTL shipping is ideal for mid-sized shipments, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for smaller shipments. If your freight is too small, you might end up paying for space that you don't need.

When to Choose Partial Truckload Shipping

As a logistics company, RS Group understands the importance of choosing the right shipping method to ensure the safe and timely delivery of goods. PTL shipping, or partial truckload shipping, is a cost-effective and efficient option for certain situations. Knowing when to opt for PTL shipping can save time and money while also ensuring the safety of your goods.

Some situations where PTL shipping might be the best choice include shipping larger items that don't require a full truckload, shipping to remote locations, or when time is of the essence.

At RS Group, we work closely with our clients to determine the best shipping method for their specific needs, and we are always ready to offer our expertise in PTL shipping when it makes the most sense.

When Your Shipment Falls within the PTL Weight and Size Range

The most obvious time to opt for PTL is when your shipment falls within the typical weight and size range for PTL (between 5,000-30,000 pounds, 8-30 feet in length, and 5-15 pallets). If your freight is too large for LTL but doesn't require a full truckload, PTL is a cost-effective and practical choice.

When You're Shipping High-Value or Delicate Items

PTL shipping involves less handling than LTL, as your goods are loaded onto the truck at the start and stay there until delivery. This makes PTL a safer option for high-value or delicate items that could be damaged during the loading and unloading process.

When You Need Faster Transit Times

PTL shipping often offers faster transit times than LTL, as your goods aren't sharing a truck with multiple other shipments. If you're working with tight timelines and need your goods to reach their destination quickly, PTL shipping can be an excellent choice.

When You're Shipping Irregularly Shaped or Oversized Items

The flexibility of PTL shipping makes it a good choice for irregularly shaped or oversized items that wouldn't fit into the standard categories of LTL or FTL shipping.

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