What is SPD vs LTL?

June 16, 2023 Joe Jordan

How often do you find yourself confronted with the perplexing terms "SPD" and "LTL" while researching shipping options? If you've ever wondered about the meaning and implications of these acronyms in the context of shipping, you've come to the right place. In this blog, we will delve into the definitions, details, and key differences between SPD and LTL.

By the end, you'll know which of the two is best for your shipments.

What Is the Difference Between SPD and LTL?

When it comes to shipping goods, two commonly used methods are Small Parcel Delivery (SPD) and Less Than Truckload (LTL). Understanding the differences between these two options can help you select the most cost-effective and efficient option.

Small Parcel Delivery refers to the transportation of smaller packages or parcels that typically weigh 70 pounds and below. E-commerce companies, large and small, heavily use small parcel delivery to fulfill customer orders on time and within budget.

Companies like UPS, FedEx, and DHL dominate the SPD sector, offering a wide range of services, from standard ground transport to customized same-day delivery.

On the other hand, Less Than Truckload (LTL) refers to shipments that are too large to be classified as small parcels but not big enough to take up the entire capacity of a truck. LTL shipments usually weigh between 150 and 20,000 pounds.

LTL provides shippers of medium-volume freight with a cost-effective way to ship their cargo since they don’t have to pay for a full truck. Instead, LTL carriers consolidate multiple smaller shipments from different customers into a single truckload, reducing costs and maximizing efficiency. Examples of LTL carriers include XPO Logistics, Old Dominion Freight Line, and YRC Worldwide.

The key difference between SPD and LTL lies in the size and weight of the shipments. While SPD is ideal for small, lightweight parcels, LTL is designed for freight shipments that do not require a full truck.

Another significant distinction is the pricing structure. SPD services often have standardized rates based on package weight and dimensions, whereas LTL pricing considers factors like freight class, weight, distance, and additional services required.

SPD Vs. LTL: Example

Imagine a small online boutique shipping a few pairs of shoes to customers across the country. SPD services like FedEx Ground or UPS 2nd Day Air would be their most cost-effective and efficient option. However, LTL would be the preferred choice if the business needs to ship a pallet of shoe boxes to a retail store. By consolidating the shipment with other LTL freight, the business can save costs while ensuring reliable delivery.

Is LTL Cheaper Than SPD?

Generally, for larger and heavier shipments that do not require a full truck, LTL can offer cost savings compared to SPD.

However, determining whether Less Than Truckload (LTL) is cheaper than Small Parcel Delivery (SPD) requires considering various factors, including the size and weight of the shipment, distance, and additional services required. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, examining some key aspects can shed light on the difference in cost.

LTL shipments are typically priced based on factors such as freight class, weight, distance, and additional services like liftgate or inside delivery. On the other hand, SPD services often have standardized rates based on package weight and shipping distance.

For comparison purposes, let's consider a scenario where a repair shop needs to send a 500-pound shipment of automotive parts from Los Angeles to Chicago using FedEx.

Cost of sending ten 50-pound boxes via FedEx Ground

Cost of sending one 500-pound shipment using FedEx LTL Freight




Based on this data, the LTL shipment seems to have a potentially lower price range than the SPD shipment.

One reason for this is due to volume discounts. LTL shipments often benefit from volume discounts. As the shipment size increases, the per-pound rate can decrease, making it more cost-effective to transport larger loads.

In the case of the LTL shipment, the cost advantage of shipping 500 pounds in one shipment instead of ten separate 50-pound boxes may have contributed to the lower price range. However, it's important to note that individual negotiation and specific circumstances can impact the final pricing structure.

Smaller, lighter shipments are often more economical to ship via SPD since they fit within the standardized rates, and the convenience of door-to-door delivery is an added benefit. Additionally, for long-distance shipments or those requiring specialized services, LTL may still be cost-effective due to the consolidation of multiple shipments into a single truckload.

How ShipSigma Can Help

At ShipSigma, we leverage over $1 billion of live market data to unearth prime cost-saving opportunities for your company.

If you’re ready to join 300+ happy customers enjoying an average of 25% in savings, contact us today.

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