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Trucks Vs Trains – The Pros and Cons of Road and Rail Transport

When looking to transport freight, there are several options, road, rail, air or sea. The latter of the four will almost certainly rely on the first two at some point along the way. This makes road and rail our most crucial modes of transport for freight.

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So, in the toss up between Truck and Train, which offers the best results? The pros and cons of road and rail transport, once laid out and compared, can hopefully provide an answer.

The Long and Winding Road

With road transportation, an estimated 10 million trucks operate worldwide as the links in supply chains. Busy between resources and factories, factories and warehouses, warehouses and retail outlets as well as the many, many other avenues of business that they serve.

The Pros

Firstly, trucking operates with a very predictable and reliable schedule. The time it takes, the speed of trucks and the traffic on the roads rarely changes. This means trucks are reliable when it comes to scheduled deliveries.

Across short distances, trucks are cost effective and more economical. It is also much easier to increase the fuel efficiency of trucks, particularly with advancements in science and technology. Trucks can also offer a door-to-door delivery option in most cases.

With the above considered, trucks are much more appropriate for perishable good such as food. With easy storage and efficiency over shorter distances the large majority of fresh produce and foods are carried by truck.

The Cons

The downside to road transportation and trucks comes in their limits in both load size and their reduced efficiency over distance. Trucks have limited capacity for cargo. Over longer distances they are slower and weather conditions can adversely affect their ability.

Staying on Track

Trains are the real work horses of the transportation world. Measurable by ton per kilometre, trains work out as the greener option as the fuel consumption drastically reduces once up to speed with tracks that are long, straight and avoid inclines.

Let’s take a look in more detail.

The Pros

A train use nine times less energy per ton kilometre than a truck and is four times more fuel efficient. This results in them emitting 60-75% less in green house gasses.

Much cheaper over long distances, trains are also much quicker. There are less limitations with cargo, and a train could carry as much as 400 times that of a truck. With just two engineers to drive the train, that’s at least 398 less personnel needed.

Trains account for less accidents than trucks as well. This is mostly because the rail systems do not engage in the same way with public routes of transport.

The Cons

The main issue for trains is that where the railroads stop, so do the trains. Often, at this point the train’s cargo becomes reliant on road. The cost of moving containers too and from the train also presents another hurdle.

Across shorter distances, trains loose much of their efficiency. They are much less adaptable to abnormal cargo loads and when crossing borders, often need to change train operators leading to more on and off loading.



To conclude our comparison, it appears that there is an even balance of pros and cons for each mode of transport. Dependent on your cargo, your destination and your distance, either train or truck could offer the best solution.

Click the following for more on our shipping rates, or for volumetric weights you can use our handy calculator here. As for train or truck, we can take care of those decisions for you. We always instruct the best and most efficient route for your cargo.

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