Your company ships plenty of full truckload (FTL) and less than truckload (LTL) shipments. But sometimes you have cargo that falls in between those. That is known as volume freight, freight volume, or a volume shipment. It requires larger than standard LTL capacity, but doesn’t fill up a full truckload shipment or justify paying that full truckload rate. The freight volume category for a partial truckload requires a different way of thinking and planning to maximize your larger shipments in North America. This guide to understanding your volume freight and the logistics involved should help.

What is Volume Freight? 

Before delving into volume freight, it’s important to give a little more context in defining standard LTL and full truckload shipments. Full truckload shipments use the entire truck capacity. No other shippers’ freight will go in that truck. A full truckload is typically 12 or more pallets, with a volume freight quote depending on weight or density. An LTL shipment includes freight that does not fill the truck capacity but is too large to send via parcel or postal carriers. The shipper pays for space used, like linear footage.

The definition of volume freight is that it is larger than the standard LTL capacity, but smaller than a full truckload. But the details of what is larger than LTL freight differs by the carrier. Freight and volume must exceed weight, space, or cubic capacity typically assigned to an LTL shipment. A volume shipment might weigh 5,000-20,000 pounds or have a specific pallet count, like 6-30 pallets – the wide range shows how carriers define their freight and volume differently. Volume freight solutions might include 12-53 linear trailer feet space. It doesn’t matter if it’s smaller carriers or larger ones, they make their own determinations about what constitutes freight volume. 

Common Issues with Volume Freight

Here are the issues shippers will find when classifying something as freight volume.


Determining what is volume freight is difficult when carriers use different definitions. Comparing freight quotes is not like comparing apples to apples. Some carriers may say the freight qualifies for volume LTL while another says it qualifies for LTL truckload shipping. If a shipper has multiple volume items for their shipment, this truckload shipment may be quoted on floor space used, while another carrier quotes based on the freight class.


An LTL carrier may not offer the same accessorials they offer for regular LTL freight, for volume LTL freight. If you need freight services like inside delivery or a lift gate, you may not be able to use this truckload freight method; you should ensure the services needed are available before booking.

Last-minute booking

Not all larger and smaller carriers offer volume freight services. It can be a time-consuming process to get freight quotes and book it, as some carriers do this on the spot market and only guarantee the load volume once they know it can fill up the rest of the truck. Shippers who don’t have this flexibility can be left in the lurch. It can be a last-minute confirmation on the spot market, so shippers can’t plan far in advance.

The Advantages of Freight Volume 

Just as there are disadvantages, there are also advantages to sending cargo as volume freight.


Freight classification isn’t considered in the volume freight quotes. Shippers moving lightweight items like cushions, popcorn or potato chips may find volume freight a less expensive shipping method, as they don’t worry about density-based pricing. 

No additional fees

There are no additional fees at delivery. The space purchased is confirmed upfront. That means no expensive surprises.

Faster transfer

Freight from volume LTL shipments are typically transferred more quickly than traditional LTL loads. That’s because volume freight is not unloaded at every terminal or dock. Due to less frequent handling, there’s also a lower risk of freight damage.

Last-minute booking

Yes, this is an advantage as well as a disadvantage. Shippers looking for last-minute booking will love volume LTL shipping. As long as they have some flexibility.

Freight quotes and transportation for volume freight

Volume LTL shipments are often done by traditional LTL carriers who have experience with complex truckload shipping, and may also have automated freight quote solutions. With a volume freight quote, shippers should expect to get pricing based on the lane and freight demand. They should be able to get a reefer rate or a dry van rate if needed. The volume quotes are for the space used, considering the load volume: the weight and dimensions of the products shipped.

What to Keep in Mind for Volume LTL Shipping

When shopping for volume LTL shipping, there are a few freight shipping tips to keep in mind. 

1. Dimensions

Carriers have different specifications for what makes a volume freight shipment. Know your dimensions and needs before seeking a volume quote. That includes the pallet numbers and linear feet. Stacking pallets is a good option as well, since the focus is on utilized floor space.

2. Find a 3PL or consolidator

A consolidator is a non-traditional LTL carrier, who charges by linear feet or pallet number. These consolidators often offer minimal freight handling and use long-haul lanes. They also may not offer accessorials, so keep that in mind.

3. Lanes

3PLs or consolidators offering this volume LTL service may primarily work out of large logistics hubs. In other markets, the carriers might focus on specific lanes. Knowing your lane can help you find the best match.

4. Relationships matter

Just like all things in supply chain and transportation, developing good relationships with carriers helps and can improve customer service on the shipping end and your customer end.

5. Contract Optimization

If you’re asking, how much does freight shipping cost, the answer will depend on your individual contracts. Contracting for truckload freight and volume this way may involve spot market contracts. However, optimizing shipping contracts overall is an important way to achieve the most effective pallet shipping cost or to avoid unnecessary accessorial charges. Overall, parcel contract optimization will help you get the most out of your shipping contract. Optimizing shipping contracts with companies involves digging deeply into current contracts to understand all terms and conditions, while also parsing your current invoices to understand how those terms and conditions affect your individual pricing. Even if your company has a large discount applied to the account, you may be paying more if your shipments fall into another category with higher spot rates. 

Freight and parcel contract negotiation is the bread and butter of what Shipware does. We do the heavy lifting to help customers get the best prices and the best services for them. Our experts have worked as in-house executives at the large carriers and know how the contract negotiation process works from that carrier side. The inside knowledge means we have greater insights into how your freight contracts can be negotiated, and we can advise you on the best negotiation methods using your own data as well as benchmark industry data. These negotiation methods are intended to help you procure cheap freight shipping costs for your company. Our clients find that they save an average of 21% on their shipping as a result, more than they would save if going it alone.

Even before optimizing contracts, though, the shipper should ensure they’re using the best transportation modes for the situation. Let’s say you’re a consumer packaged goods company. Likely your goods will use intermodal transportation. You can send items as air cargo on an airplane, on a truck, or on a train – or some combination. Air freight might be too expensive for your needs, but using full truckloads or volume freight solutions from the manufacturing plant to the distribution centers, and then regional trucking to the stores or small distribution centers, may be cost-effective. Looking at all parts of the supply chain to make these determinations is important. Shipware can help with modal optimization and present options your consumer packaged goods company (or any company) hasn’t thought of.

6. Freight and Parcel Auditing

Getting the best rates and contracts is important, but ensuring that your company isn’t paying more than it should be based on those contracts is vital. We’ve found that 99% of invoices contain errors. They’re not always easy to find. They could include incorrect accessorial charges or freight classifications, duplicate invoices, taxes from the wrong state, inconsistently-applied discounts, or late deliveries. 

It’s not only impossible to catch all these with the human eye, but it’s timeconsuming and not a good use of labor. Shipware’s automated proprietary invoice auditing software, though, can catch the errors after scanning invoices for multi-point audit different characteristics. Our parcel audit software identifies billing errors and incorrect charges, and automatically sends credit refund requests to the carriers. This service saves shippers 1-5% weekly on faulty invoicing charges.

Whether you are a consumer package goods retailer or an auto parts manufacturer, your company needs shipping to serve your customers. Keeping those supply chain and logistics rates low means you can focus on innovation, customer service, and growing your business. Shipping can be full truckload, LTL shipments or LTL volume freight. They’re all great options depending on your needs. The important thing is to use them at the right time, and in the right way. There are experts available to help choose the best intermodal services for your needs, to optimize your shipping contracts and ensure the carriers aren’t overcharging you for what they promised. Let Shipware know how we can help you do this.