Two of the most common forms of cargo transport are trucks and railroads. Both serve to take cargo across continents effectively every day. But which is more efficient? Which method is better in terms of speed, cost, and reliability?

While both remain key components of the economy, trucking accounts for over 70% of all freight running through the United States alone. That tells us something about the shipping industry. But let’s look at which is truly more efficient in the transport of goods, trucking or railroads.

Railroads as a Method of Shipping

For real efficiency in terms of fuel costs, railroads lead the way with about 400 ton-miles per gallon, so cargo can go a long way on very little fuel. The trains are perfect for hauling very large cargo over long distances quite effectively. Short distances tend to be a problem though and railcars are not as cost-effective for smaller cargo.

Plus, costs are much lower for rail than any other kind of transport system. The railroads also move quickly, on a set schedule, so you can have your cargo much sooner than you think via railway. However, trains can only go from station to station, which means you have to get your cargo to the station and pick it up on the other end. So even if you get it there by train, you still need a truck at both ends to complete the journey.

Truck Shipment Efficiencies

Go where trains can’t with a truck, which can provide door to door transport every time. Trucking may cost a little more, but the conveniences and speed far outweigh that extra cost to create better value. There is no set schedule, so trucking can offer a delivery system based on when you want to ship your cargo.

What differentiates trucking from rail, even more, is the ability to track your cargo every step of the way. While a truck may be slower than rail over longer hauls, they do have the flexibility to adapt to road conditions and weather patterns, which is not possible for train transport. But in any event, you can know where your load is through a GPS tracker.

Since trucks can get cargo to its destination relatively easily, especially on shorter runs, it is by far the better choice over rail. It may cost a little more to ship but trucks can handle just about any size load in any configuration, which is difficult to do with railcars.

Trucking is involved with just about all aspects of cargo shipments, so the efficiencies of trucks are felt globally throughout many industries. Because if you think about it, everything you have was brought to you by truck, whether the truck took the whole journey itself or it was part of the process. So trucking is so efficient that even railroads need it to make their shipments. That’s how much more efficient trucking is over railroads.