Marisol International Transportation & Logistics Blog

Truck vs. Train Transportation

Posted by Chelsea Mitchell on Mar 24, 2015 1:20:00 PM

Each year, more than 25 million containers and trailers move via intermodal transportation in North America. Intermodal transportation involves the transportation of cargo using multiple modes of transportation, such as rail, truck and ship. During 2014, 60% of NAFTA freight was moved across the border via truck. Similarly, 15% of NAFTA freight traveled via train. Why do shippers elect to move goods via truck or train? The answer reflects the individual company's unique transportation needs and budget. 


Below are five factors to consider when comparing intermodal options: 

  • Cost
  • Labor
  • Regulations
  • Carbon Footprint
  • Transit Time 

The top consideration for most companies is overall transportation cost. The comparison of cost between truck and rail depends on the distance to destination and current fuel prices. If the distance to transport is long, a primarily rail transportation strategy would be a better track for shippers. However, if the shipment will only travel a short distance, draying the container will likely be the most economical route.

Over the past few years, the trucking industry has been battered by strict Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, a chronic truck driver shortage and high labor turnover. The American Trucking Association reported that the current shortage is roughly 25,000 drivers. Trucking firms have attempted to combat the driver shortage and labor turnover with increased salaries, large sign on bonuses and improved health and benefits plans. Currently, the driver supply cannot meet the strong demand of North American shippers. The FMCSA Hours of Service Rule has forced drayage companies to mandate a rest period for drivers following a 10 hour workday. Additionally, drivers may only drive a certain number of hours per week. These factors have limited exponential growth within the trucking industry.

As for carbon emissions, rail transportation provides the most environmentally-friendly solution. However, transit times tend to be faster with drayage transport. 

The above considerations are important when selecting a transportation strategy. Marisol International provides advice for shippers regarding cost, estimated transit times, compliance issues, cargo insurance and other important shipping factors. Contact us today to quote your domestic shipment. 

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Topics: Logistics, Freight, Supply Chain, NAFTA, Domestic Transportation

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