More Glossary Terms


Truckload is a road transportation mode used to move large freight shipments that fill the space or weight limit of standard 48-foot and 53-foot trailers.

What is truckload transportation?
Truckload trucking or full truckload (FTL) transportation is an over-the-road move for a trailer filled with one cargo shipment or consolidated partial truckload shipments. Full truckload shipments are served by three different trailer equipment types: dry van, flatbed and refrigerated or reefer.

Truckload trucking serves shippers who:

  • Ship enough freight to fill a trailer.
  • Isolate a large shipment to one trailer.
  • Expedite time-sensitive cargo.
  • Transport freight with high risk of damage.
Full truckload shipments usually travel between one origin and destination. This limits time-in-transit and improves delivery time estimates. Likewise, limited stops reduce freight handling and the potential for cargo damage.
What is a Truckload Carrier?

A truckload carrier is an individual or ground transportation company that transports full truckload shipments on behalf of shippers. Freight carriers own their own vehicles, with small truckload carriers owning 1-5 vehicles and larger carriers operating fleets of trucks and/or trailers.

Truckload carriers can serve dedicated freight, consistent shipments in the same lane and at the same rate as contracted between the carrier and a shipper. With contract or dedicated freight, a shipper commits to a certain amount of freight, while the carrier commits driver and equipment capacity.

Alternately, truckload carriers move spot market freight, a transactional, one-time shipment that is transported at current freight market pricing and spot rates. Full truckload carriers access spot market freight by participating in load boards and digital freight matching platforms.

Truckload vs Less-than-Truckload

A full truckload (FTL) shipment fills all or most of a standard trailer. Less-than-truckload (LTL) transportation combines freight shipments from multiple shippers.

LTL shipments range from 150 to 5,000 pounds, between 1-6 pallets, and use up to 12 linear feet on a trailer. FTL shipments can range from 24 to 30+ pallets and are limited by space in a trailer or weight capacity.
Comparing FTL vs. LTL, other differences include:


Truckload rates are calculated on a per-mile basis. Pricing depends on established contracts between shippers and carriers, or spot market pricing for available trucking capacity. Both contract and spot rates are determined by trucking capacity supply and freight shipment demand. Rates can fluctuate based on origin and destination, shipment weight, truck capacity and location.

Less-than-truckload pricing is regulated by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) which classifies freight based on commodity, density and ease of transport. LTL carriers each have standard LTL rates determined by origin and destination, the NMFC class, the amount of space the shipment occupies and any additional services or accessorial charges.


Full truckload shipments generally move direct from origin to destination. Restrictions are limited to trailer capacity and the driver’s hours of service (HOS). A truckload shipment can travel 400-500 miles per day.

LTL shipments share a trailer with multiple shipments and operate using a hub and spoke model. Shipments are consolidated at carrier terminals with shipments bound for similar destinations. LTL trailer loads make multiple stops for delivery and/or pick-up on a route, limiting the daily driving distance to about 300 miles.

Benefits of Truckload Shipping

Faster Transit Times

Truckload freight moves are faster that LTL shipments. A truckload shipment is picked up and delivered by the same truck, with no extra stops between the pick-up and delivery location.

Less Chance of Damage

One freight shipment in one trailer means less chance of one shipper’s cargo damaging another shipper’s freight in transit. Similarly, damage threats are limited because truckload shipments are touched less than an LTL move with additional freight handling at terminals or between pick-ups and delivery.


Full truckload rates are determined in real time based on freight shipping demand and available trucking capacity. Carriers or brokers may be willing to negotiate rates and offer flexibility based on their own business priorities.

Less-than-truckload rates are fixed by LTL carriers based on classification, origin and destination, weight and space utilized on a trailer. LTL rates are not negotiable.

Learn more about managing spot freight alongside contract freight inside your TMS.

What is the Maximum Weight for a Truckload?

Federal truckload weight limits are 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, 20,000 pounds on a single axle and 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle group.

The maximum weight for a truckload shipment is determined by state and federal transportation regulations and laws. Federal law controls maximum gross vehicle weights and axle loads in the interstate system. Often individual states have different weight limits governing roads in their jurisdiction.

Outside regulations, the maximum weight for a truckload shipment depends on the trailer equipment type. Materials used in building and operating dry van, flatbed, and reefer truckload trailers contribute different weights to the gross vehicle weight. On average maximum trailer weight capacity includes:

  • Dry van: 44,000 to 45,000 pounds.
  • Flatbed: up to 48,000 pounds.
  • Reefer: 42,500 to 44,000 pounds.

Tandem trailers provide additional axles and weight capacity to facilitate larger individual shipments.

How MercuryGate Supports Truckload Shipping
MercuryGate transportation management technology supports full truckload transportation for shippers, freight brokers and third-party logistics providers, as well as road transportation carriers.

For shippers, MercuryGate offers a single platform, global transportation management system for truckload transportation:

  • Procure, plan, optimize, execute, and settle full truckload shipments.
  • Tap spot market capacity with digital freight matching solutions.
  • Access control tower visibility and analysis-based decision support for best service/best cost options.
Similarly, freight brokers enjoy many of the same benefits from MercuryGate transportation management technology for truckload shipping. Brokers can match customer loads to equipment posted on public boards, while also accessing validated carrier data to match client requirements.
Brokers and third-party logistics providers use MercuryGate TMS in truckload trucking to manage carrier and rate data in one system. This allows any shippers or clients to secure optimal rates from carriers.

Truckload carriers using MercuryGate TMS:

  • Manage driver data and safety records while ensuring regulatory compliance of drivers and equipment.
  • Maximize asset utilization and reduce unnecessary miles to maintain healthy profit margins.
  • Simplify planning and execution within a single management system.
  • Know the status of every driver and truck to meet customer demands.
Integrated within the transportation management system, MercuryGate claims management technology offers shippers, brokers, 3PLs and carriers the ability to easily manage any type of claim. Centralized data and process automation allows claims management users to reduce administrative costs associated with manual labor and input errors.
MercuryGate’s suite of transportation management solutions is designed to streamline transportation execution across every mode, including truckload shipping. See MercuryGate TMS in action with a demo.

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