Truckload shipping is the movement of large amounts of homogeneous cargo, generally the amount necessary to fill an entire semi-trailer or intermodal container. A truckload carrier is a trucking company that generally contracts an entire trailer-load to a single customer. This is as opposed to a less-than truckload (LTL) company that generally mixes freight from several customers in each trailer. One advantage Full Truckload (FTL) carriers have over Less than Truckload carriers is that the freight is never handled en route, whereas an LTL shipment will typically be transported on several different trailers.
Full truckload carriers normally deliver a semi trailer to a shipper who will fill the trailer with freight for one destination. After the trailer is loaded, the driver returns to the shipper to collect the required paperwork (i.e. Bill of lading, Invoice, and Customs paperwork) and depart with the trailer containing freight. In most cases the driver then proceeds directly to the consignee and delivers the freight him or herself. Occasionally, a driver will transfer the trailer to another driver who will drive the freight the rest of the way. Full Truckload (FTL) transit times are normally constrained by the driver’s availability according to Hours of Service regulations and distance. It is normally accepted that Full Truckload drivers will transport freight at an average rate of 47 miles per hour (including traffic jams or queues at intersections).
Because truckload carriers are asked to ship a wide variety of items, a truckload carrier will often specialize in moving a specific kind of freight. Some carriers will primarily transport food and perishable items, whereas others may specialize in moving poisonous and hazardous materials. Carriers will only transport specific freight because different equipment and insurance is needed for the different kinds. There are also federal laws stating which types of freight can be shipped together in the same trailer.