Although over-the-road (OTR) truck driving is one of the most common career paths for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders, there are many more options available. One to be aware of is less-than-truckload (LTL) freight. There is generally more home time for this type of trucking. However, there are some things to consider when deciding if it is right for you.
How LTL Freight Works
To understand what an LTL driver does, it’s helpful to have an idea of how this type of freight service operates. Whereas OTR loads are generally for one or only a few customers and move large distances all at once, LTL loads involve several smaller portions of freight from different sources. LTL gets its name from the fact that each customer has less than a full truckload of freight that needs to be delivered. These shipments are picked up and taken to a terminal for the freight company. Here, they are sorted and sent out on trucks to different terminals. The loads then branch out until they are delivered to their final destination. To visualize this, imagine a tree where the roots (freight customers) come into the central trunk (LTL terminals). This then breaks off into smaller branches (delivery locations).
Linehaul vs P&D LTL Driving
There are two types of LTL jobs you might have: pickup and delivery (P&D) and linehaul. These involve different responsibilities and your day-to-day life will look different depending on which one you choose.
P&D, as the name implies, involves picking up freight from customers and bringing it to the LTL terminal or taking freight from the terminal and delivering it. These drivers make several stops each day and load and unload shipments. The lifestyle is similar to other local delivery jobs and drivers are usually home daily or nightly.
Linehaul drivers, on the other hand, move freight from terminal to terminal. The length of the route depends on various factors. As a result, you may be home multiple times each week or less frequently. For longer linehaul routes, the schedule is similar to regional trucking and often gets drivers home for weekends. Linehaul jobs almost always involve driving overnight, so if you prefer to drive during the day, P&D or another type of trucking may be more suitable.
LTL vs OTR
Some things to consider if you are choosing between LTL and OTR include:
One of the main reasons drivers choose LTL jobs instead of OTR is the home time. P&D drivers may be home every day and even linehaul drivers with long routes spend more time at home than OTR truckers.
Sleeper Cab vs Day Cab
Long-haul truck drivers will usually drive semi-trucks that have sleeper berths, meaning there is an area behind the seats with a bunk for sleeping. On the other hand, LTL drivers typically have day cabs that do not have a sleeping area. If the driver is running a longer linehaul route, they usually stay overnight in a hotel paid for by their company.
OTR driving is as much of a lifestyle as it is a career. For some, this is a major advantage. They love the freedom of the open road and enjoy the excitement of traveling the country while earning money. LTL freight is different because you are usually driving the same route and are not living the “trucking lifestyle.” Some drivers see this as a disadvantage, whereas others appreciate the routine and home time.
Truck Driver Pay
Of course, one of the major considerations for any career decision is pay. This can vary considerably among different LTL and OTR jobs, so it is difficult to make a straightforward comparison between the two. It is a good idea to look at the pay for the companies you are interested in and talk to current and former drivers to get a better idea of what to expect.
Earn Your CDL
Whether you are interested in LTL, OTR, or another type of career that requires a CDL, Phoenix Truck Driving School can help. You can earn your commercial license in as little as four weeks and our job placement assistance team can help you start earning as soon as possible after graduation. We take into account what types of jobs are more compatible with your lifestyle preferences and career goals.