Trying to navigate the world of freight transportation can be tricky. With so many moving parts (literally!), sometimes it can be tough to know if the shipping mode you have chosen is really the best option for your business. Or maybe, there is another mode or two you had not even thought to consider.
In our series, “Transportation Modes Revealed,” explore the pros and cons of the most popular shipping modes — truck, rail, ship/barge and plane — and see how they stack up against each other across a variety of factors, including cost, speed, capacity, reliability and environmental impact.
First up, truck. Let’s take an in-depth look at why over-the-road transportation just might be for you.
Shipping by Truck
Truck is the most common mode of transport in the U.S. It provides quick delivery of shipments traveling short distances and can deliver just about anywhere. In many instances, it is used in conjunction with other modes for first and last mile transport. Is it right for you?
- Cost effective for short distances
- Provides door-to-door pickup and delivery
- Extensive market reach, even to remote areas
- Carrying capacity limited by truck size and weight restrictions
- Susceptible to delays caused by traffic jams, road construction and weather conditions
- Not as environmentally responsible as other modes
For the most part, shipping by truck is considered cost effective, particularly when transporting goods short distances. However, if you have shipments traveling from coast to coast, it might be worth looking at rail or other shipping modes, especially when you consider costs associated with more rolling resistance and air friction, which leads to higher fuel consumption than other modes.
Trucks travel at an average speed of about 50 miles per hour (mph), offering quick delivery for short to medium distances. Trucks are also very good at delivering at a precise/specific time. Combining truck and rail allows you to achieve a more efficient and cost effective shipping solution.
Trucks are great if you have a fairly large amount of goods to ship. However, you are limited a bit depending on the size and weight of your shipment and the capacity of the truck, in addition to federal and state weight requirements.
Depending on the size of your shipment, you have options:
- Full Truckload (FTL) – Direct door-to-door service between two locations for one shipper. Loads are large enough to fill a trailer and typically weigh approximately 34,000 – 45,000 pounds.
- Less than Truckload (LTL) – Serves multiple customers and destinations. Loads do not fully occupy the entire trailer, allowing multiple loads from various shippers to travel together, and typically weigh under 15,000 pounds.
- Parcel – Carries very small loads and travel along complex “hub and spoke” networks to serve many different customers at one time for more efficiency. Parcel carriers include shippers like DHL, FedEx and UPS.
Thanks to a government-funded infrastructure across the entire continental U.S., trucking is the only mode that can pick up and deliver door to door almost anywhere – even reaching very remote areas.
Many carriers provide visibility into your shipment’s journey. Most trucks are equipped with GPS tracking devices to pinpoint the exact location of your shipment in real time.
Barring any major traffic, construction or weather delays, truck shipments – for the most part – are typically reliable and can be expected to arrive within a pre-determined timeframe.
While fast for short trips, trucks are much less fuel efficient and contribute to a greater percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions than other shipping modes.
Questions? Don't hesitate to drop us a line.