Shipping by Truck vs Shipping by Rail

Shipping by Truck vs Shipping by Rail

Posted by Ontario Container Transport | January 29, 2020 | Truck Shipping
Shipping by Truck vs Shipping by Rail

Moving goods across continents and land has become effortless thanks to common freight transportation methods such as shipping by rail and shipping by truck. Both modes of transport carry with their benefits and disadvantages. Knowing the details of both modes of transport can help you decide which to select according to what is best for your shipment.

Shipping by Truck

This method of transport is mostly used to move day to day goods such as food, fruits, groceries, and dry goods. Truck transport, also known as road transport, is commonly used to distribute and deliver retail items to different distribution centers. Consumer needs are easily satisfied when finished products are moved from one location to another.

The Benefits

  • Large-volume shipping is ideal when shipping by trucks. It is a convenient option for big businesses as it makes the process of transferring goods to its assigned destination manageable. 
  • A specific truck is available for any shipper’s particular needs. There are trucks designed to move perishable items and another truck to move dry goods.
  • Cargo becomes easier to monitor thanks to GPS as well as satellite tracking. Fleet operators and truck owners can work with experts who are able to install systems and devices that track vehicles.
  • Shipping by truck is an affordable way to transport goods, especially over short distances. This method allows for large quantities of goods to be moved to a small amount of time. 
  • Pricing is generally transparent as space and weight which the cargo will use can be determined early on.

The Disadvantages

  • Specific areas carry laws that prohibit shipping by trucks whose weight or size goes beyond certain limitations. When moving cargo, its size or weight needs to be restricted to the maximum allowed numbers.
  • Truck transport is affected by weather conditions as a road’s current state determines if goods will be difficult to move during sleet, rain, floods, wind, snow, etc. 
  • When transporting goods over long distances, shipping by truck takes a longer time to complete compared to shipping by rail. It is also more costly.
  • The carbon footprint left by trucks is another reason for using it to transport goods is disadvantageous. Trucks have a tendency to emit pollutants and smoke. They also deplete petroleum resources due to their long and heavy haul.

Shipping by Rail

Shipping by train is common in continents and countries where transit times are lengthier. These include Russia, China, Europe, and the USA. Plus, freight trains are able to carry more varied types of cargo such as livestock, grains, vehicles, minerals, coal, metals.

The Benefits

  • Rail transport is considered a more environmentally-friendly option because they use less fuel for each ton-mile compared to road vehicles. The energy which railway transport consumes is 9 times less per ton kilometre compared to trucks.
  • The Association of American Railroads confirms that railroads are able to move a ton of freight for 479 miles on average using a mere gallon of fuel. Plus, greenhouse gas emissions decrease by 75% when using rail transport.
  • This mode of transport is able to move more freight. Trains are also 4 times more fuel-efficient.
  • Cost-wise, moving freight in long distances is faster and more affordable. For instance, moving cargo from China to any part in Europe takes less than 18 days via rail but it takes 44 days to do so by sea. Shippers who opt for rail transport are able to have 10-40% more savings.

The Disadvantages

  • Abnormally-sized cargoes are not suited to be transported in normal rail wagons
  • Delays may occur during cross borders due to changes in train operators
  • Shipping by train to transport goods through short distances is not cost-efficient 
  • Not all loads can be transported by train. Certain limitations exist such as the distance between the consignee and shipper must not be more than 100 to 200 miles from the main terminal in a major metropolitan area. Transit times are also not guaranteed thus loads that need to be shipped in a rush are not advised to use train transport.


Shipping by truck and shipping by rail has advantages and disadvantages. Both are important modes of transport and can even be used as an efficient intermodal transport method. Choose which best suits your needs as well as which satisfies your customers’ requirements.

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