Volume LTL Shipments Vs. Full Truckload: Which Is Best?

Written by Neal Willis

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LTL freight carrier networks are geared towards smaller-sized shipments that take up a minimal amount of space within a trailer, which is one reason why larger shipments that take a lot of space aren’t really a good fit for the LTL environment.

Larger shipments that take up 750 cubic feet of space or more (give or take a little depending upon the carrier) should normally be routed via truckload or volume rather than as an LTL shipment. LTL freight carriers will charge cubic capacity fees for the hassle of having to handle these larger types of shipments that should have been routed another way. 

Volume LTL shipments can be an economical alternative to full truckload and regular LTL, however, the nature and service characteristics of these two different types of shipments are somewhat different.

Volume LTL shipments can be carrier specific in terms of qualifying size requirements, but they normally begin to qualify for volume rates when they reach approximately 750 cubic feet in size. To calculate cubic feet, the following formula is used: inches in length x inches in width x inches in height divided by 1,728 = cubic feet of shipment.

Volume Vs. LTL & Truckload Shipment Differences


Volume shipments are generally less expensive than full truckloads and shippers don’t get hit with any surprise cubic capacity charges after delivery is made. Why? Because the utilized space is already accounted for in the discounted volume rate they obtain up front.

Ease of Use  

Volume shipments usually take less time to quote and arrange as opposed to full truckloads where back-and-forth negotiations tend to occur.

Less Damage  

Although the freight can be offloaded from a pickup-and-delivery trailer to a line haul trailer and then back onto a pickup-and-delivery trailer, under normal circumstances, volume shipments aren’t handled as much as regular LTL shipments, which makes them less prone to damage.

Limited Liability  

Unlike LTL or full truckload shipments, limited carrier liability coverage is a tradeoff for the less expensive freight rate with a volume shipment. Volume LTL shipments are normally covered with a carrier liability rate of only $1/lb., which isn’t a ReTrans Freight policy. Rather, it’s an industry policy that’s standard with most, if not all, carriers. Some carriers allow you to purchase additional insurance coverage for volume shipments, and they typically require the requests for additional coverage to be written on the bill of lading at the time of shipment for the coverage to be applicable and valid.


Standard LTL transit times don’t normally apply to volume LTL shipments. Volume LTL rates are based on equipment and availability at the time of the move and shipments are delivered according to the carrier’s capability at the time of shipping. This means the speed in which it arrives may be slower than standard LTL or full truckload. If transit time is of the utmost importance, then a volume LTL shipment might not be the best option. 

When choosing whether to ship something via volume or full truckload, along with transit times, limited carrier liability is also a tradeoff that shouldn’t be ignored. Shippers should be familiar with these differences and select the appropriate type of shipment that suits their specific needs.