LTL Truck Driving Jobs
If you’re considering becoming a truck driver or are already in the profession but looking for a better work-life balance, LTL truck driving might be the right fit for you. Learn more about what LTL drivers do, what endorsements you need for LTL trucking jobs, how much you can expect to earn, and the top LTL companies to work for.
What Is LTL Driving?
LTL driving refers to transporting “less than truckload” freight for multiple clients. In other words, rather than carrying a full trailer for one client, you carry smaller loads for several clients simultaneously. For example, you might haul a third of a load for a grocery store, a third for a shipping company, and a third for a retail brand. Generally, LTL drivers transport less than 10,000 pounds of freight, but this can vary.
Clients shipping smaller loads often prefer LTL because it’s more flexible and less costly to only pay for the portion of the trailer they use. It can also speed up delivery time for small shippers because they don’t have to wait until they have a full load before transporting.
While the process varies by carrier, the LTL trucking process generally proceeds in the following way:
- A delivery or city driver picks up LTL loads from several clients.
- The smaller loads are then delivered to a dock or distribution center.
- Warehouse workers categorize the freight by location and type of load.
- Workers load larger trucks and trailers with freight going to similar locations.
- LTL drivers haul their loads to and from a central hub and make deliveries to various destinations.
The type of truck you drive as an LTL driver can vary. Some companies load a standard trailer, while others have roll-up doors to access the front and middle of the truck. You might also haul double or triple trailers on the same truck.
Differences Between LTL and FTL
LTL trucking involves transporting goods from multiple clients, while FTL (“full truckload”) truck drivers haul just one client’s load. Many similarities exist between the two types of driving, but there are a few significant differences as well. LTL drivers may not drive a standard 18-wheeler like most FTL and OTR drivers. Shorter “pup” trailers, tandem trailers, and trailers with roll-up doors are all common in LTL trucking.
Also, because they are transporting cargo from several clients, LTL drivers make stops to unload their freight throughout the day. FTL drivers drive their truckloads from point A to point B and are on the road for longer distances with fewer stops. LTL routes are often local or regional, so LTL drivers tend to have more home time than FTL drivers.
In addition, FTL drivers usually deliver to large distribution centers or stores with easy-to-navigate bays. LTL drivers may deliver to stores without a dock or with narrow alleys to access delivery locations. As a result, LTL drivers need to be adept at navigating in smaller spaces.
Pros and Cons of LTL Truck Driving
Like every job, there are pros and cons to working as an LTL truck driver. How much these factors impact your LTL trucking position depends on the company you drive for, your lifestyle, and your overall career goals.
Pros of LTL Truck Driving
- More home time: Many LTL routes are relatively short as you deliver to multiple clients, so you are home more often than long-haul drivers. Most LTL drivers enjoy daily home time.
- Higher pay than city drivers: LTL drivers usually make more than city or local drivers and can also earn higher wages than OTR drivers.
- Regular routes: Many LTL drivers have regular routes, allowing you to get to know your customers and build relationships. Delivering to the same location can make deliveries easier as you get used to specific locations and the routes you’ll use to get there.
- More active than OTR: Getting in and out of the truck several times throughout the day to make and pick up deliveries keeps you more active than OTR highway driving.
Cons of LTL Truck Driving
- May have to load and unload: LTL driving generally doesn’t involve no-touch freight, and drivers may be responsible for lifting and moving cargo in addition to driving. LTL trucking can be a very physically demanding and tiring job.
- Deliveries can be a hassle: LTL loads often need to be delivered to locations that don’t receive regular large deliveries. You may have to navigate city roads, narrow alleys, and other locations where your truck might not easily fit.
- Freight may shift: Partial loads may not be packed as tight, which allows them to shift and spill during transport. This can be a challenge for drivers and customers alike.
- Can be monotonous: Many people become truck drivers to see the country and experience the adventure of a life on wheels. With dedicated routes and predictable stops, LTL trucking might be too routine for some drivers.
Is LTL Trucking Right for Me?
If you’re considering LTL trucking jobs, it’s helpful to gain insight from other truckers who have been there and know the ins and outs of the role. Here’s what some truckers have to say about their experience as LTL drivers.
Local LTL driver Blair Blakely shares, “As a local LTL driver, I hooked to my trailer in the morning at my terminal and ran my route, making fifteen to twenty deliveries to different customers and then picked up at several different shippers and returned to my terminal in the afternoon.”
Chris Camporeale, another local LTL truck driver, explains, “In LTL I average on a 5-day, 55–60-hour workweek anywhere from $80–100k per year and taking home around $1,300–$1,600 a week when it is busy, and $60,000–$70,000 a year, $800-$1,000 a week take home when it is slow. Now this is with 7 years safe driving and 7 years’ experience as an LTL driver. Long term, LTL in my opinion is the way to go, but you…better be able to hustle, not mind touching freight, doing dock work, and spend more time backing then driving forward.”
How to Become an LTL Truck Driver
The first step to becoming an LTL truck driver is to obtain your Class A CDL, pass a background check, and prove you are physically fit enough to drive. For most companies, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old.
Many companies reserve LTL truck driving jobs for experienced drivers with some seniority because they have the know-how to navigate tight spaces, complete timely deliveries, and work with customers. Gaining experience as a local driver or OTR trucker may help you land an LTL position.
What Endorsements Do I Need for LTL Trucking?
The CDL endorsement requirements for LTL trucking vary by company and what types of goods you’ll be hauling. In general, it’s helpful to have the following endorsements before you embark on an LTL driving career:
- Triples and doubles endorsement for companies that utilize multiple trailers
- Tanker endorsement for companies that haul liquid totes
- Hazmat endorsement for companies that transport hazardous materials
If you already have your CDL, some companies may allow you to start the endorsement process after you’re hired. But, given that LTL trucking jobs are more competitive than other driving positions, it’s helpful to have your endorsements when you apply.
LTL Truck Driver Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver earns an average salary of $50,340 per year.
However, LTL drivers usually make more than average, partly because trucking carriers make higher profits for LTL shipments and because it’s a more physical job. ZipRecruiter reports LTL drivers in the U.S. earn an average annual salary of $53,226, with the top 10% making more than $70,000. LTL truck drivers are often paid an hourly wage to make up for all the time spent stopping, unloading, and loading.
What Is the Best LTL Company to Work For?
Some of the top-rated LTL carriers to work for include FedEx Freight, UPS Freight, Old Dominion, and YRC Freight. While all companies have pros and cons, roles with these companies come up regularly in trucking forums as some of the best LTL truck driving jobs.