Partial Truckload Shipping (PTL): Everything You Need To Know

Dec 18, 2023 | Blog, Pinnacle Services, Trucking Info

PTL’s versatility offers distinct options tailored to mid-sized freight and its transit requirements.

Partial shipments combine benefits of LTL and FTL and help shippers narrow down damage risks, costs, and delivery windows.

What Is Partial Truckload Shipping (PTL)?

By definition, partial truckload shipping (PTL) is a freight shipping method for cargo that is too big for less-than-truckload (LTL) but too small for full truckload (FTL) transportation.

In PTL, trailer space is shared among different partial shipments with similar routes that are unloaded at their final destination.

Shippers are charged only for the space their load occupies based on freight dimensions (not classification).

When Does Partial Shipment Make Sense?

Optimizing your business logistics processes means scaling your freight capacity needs.

Among available solutions, partial truckload shipment (or PTL) provides an excellent option when your freight does not take up the space of an entire trailer. The remaining truck space is shared with the shipments from, usually, 1 or 2 more shippers. 

Unlike LTL shipping, partial shipments stay in the same truck from pickup to drop-off.

At Pinnacle Freight Systems, Inc., we normally pair no more than two PTL shipments moving from similar origins to similar destinations, thus minimizing transit times while maximizing efficiency.

Partial truckload services are typically available for loads between 7,000 lbs to 30,000 lbs and between 7 to 20 pallets.

With 45% of shippers in 2022 reporting shipping partially empty truckloads, businesses have plenty of options to find the best PTL carriers for cost-effective freight transport.

To assess whether partial freight shipping is a good solution for your load, carriers evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of every individual shipment.

The Pros And Cons Of Partial Load Shipping

Just like LTL and FTL shipping, partial shipping has its pros and cons.

PTL Advantages

Some benefits of partial truckload shipment include:

Capacity Efficient For Medium Loads

PTL is the best option where neither FTL nor LTL works for your shipping needs due to weight or other restrictions.

For example, a business can safely ship small/medium-volume quantities without waiting for a full truckload.

Cost Effective

In partial freight shipping, you only pay for the space of your load – not for the entire trailer like in FTL shipping. SMBs with lower shipping volumes or odd-sized loads can significantly benefit from PTL.

No Need For Freight Class

Partially shipped goods are charged based on their size and weight and not freight class, like in LTL shipping. As a result, you avoid potential additional charges related to freight classification.

Great For Low-Density Loads

Because freight class does not affect PTL rates, partial shipping is an ideal option for low-density shipments that take up a lot of space.

Reduced Damage Risk

Partial shipments are loaded on the truck once and get unloaded at their final destination.

As a result, there is virtually no handling between the stops, thus minimizing the chances for damage or loss – critical when transporting sensitive or fragile cargo.

Minimal Accessorial Charges

Some trucking options, like LTL, for example, often come with additional charges for reclassification, reweighing, etc. 

Delays that keep drivers waiting, incorrect paperwork, unexpected equipment used, and wrong weight/dimensions may result in unpleasant accessorial charges. 

With PTL, you avoid back-end charges.

Optimal Temperatures For Frozen Goods

Partial freight shipping is often used for the transportation of refrigerated or frozen goods.

With minimal handling and a trailer shared with similar cargo, PTL is a great temperature-controlled shipping option that protects your product quality.

Faster Delivery With Guaranteed Delivery Windows

Partial truckload transit times are faster than LTL mainly because there are fewer drop-off stops during transit. It’s a good option for guaranteed delivery windows and expedited freight transportation.

Sounds like an ideal solution, right? 

Still, partial shipping has its own challenges. 

PTL Drawbacks

To fully benefit from partial truckload shipments, you need to assess your freight’s specifications and your carrier’s network and capabilities.

Some common PTL challenges include:

Higher Shipping Costs Per Unit

Shipping partial freight is a cost-effective solution for small/medium loads because costs per unit are higher than in full truckload shipments.

Consolidation Concerns

Depending on your market, freight, and carrier network, sometimes PTL comes with delays during consolidation. Some shippers are also faced with tight regional capacity.

Detailed Dimensions Are Critical

When using partial truckload services, rates derive from precise freight dimensions and quantities. Detailed freight information is crucial to avoid hefty additional charges.

Finding the best trucking option requires planning based on data analysis. At Pinnacle Freight Systems Inc., we discuss your needs to offer you tailored transportation solutions.

Here is a quick comparison among standard truckload options.

Full Truckload (FTL) Vs. Partial Truckload (PTL) Shipping

  1. Partial freight shipping has longer transit times than truckload (TL) transportation.
  2. Oftentimes, FTL is the fastest shipping option for last-minute or expedited shipping.
  3. FTL comes out cheaper for large loads that take up most of the trailer space.
  4. PTL has fewer accessorial charges than full truckload shipping.
  5. Partial shipments are ideal for medium-sized and odd-sized freight.

PTL Vs. LTL Shipment

  1. Partial shipment offers direct routing and faster delivery than LTL.
  2. Partial freight has a smaller damage/loss risk than LTL shipments.
  3. LTL is cheaper for small loads that are not time-sensitive and for high-density freight.
  4. PTL can offer a guaranteed delivery window easier than LTL.
  5. LTL quotes published carrier rates, while partial truckload prices are market-driven and typically end up with minimal extra charges.
  6. Partial load shipping insurance coverage is a percentage of the trailer space utilized. For example, if the shipment requires 50% of the trailer, the product is insured for 50% of the standard $100,000 cargo coverage. If clients need additional coverage, view Pinnacle cargo insurance, while LTL requires freight liability which usually comes cheaper.
  7. LTL must be crated on pallets, but partial truckloads generally do not.

Choose The Best Shipping Option For Your Needs

At Pinnacle Freight Systems Inc., we give our customers choices.

With our wide network of carriers and smart logistics applications, we optimize your transportation processes to offer the most efficient plan at competitive rates.
In partial shipping, we match capacities, loads, and routes to take your freight where it needs to go, fast and securely. Contact us to get a quote.

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Phone: 732.667.5261

Fax: 732.667.5265

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Pinnacle Freight Systems, Inc.
Pinnacle Trucking, LLC
500 Cedar Lane, Florence, NJ 08518

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