Shipping by rail and truck are two of the most used land freight modes due to their affordability, efficiency, and reliability. Each transportation mode has its own pros and cons. When it comes to capacity, cost, and the environment, rail transportation comes out as the winner. In this blog, we will compare and highlight the benefits of shipping by rail as opposed to trucking.


Railcars have a much larger capacity for transporting freight compared to trucks. A general rule of thumb is that 1 railcar can carry as many tons as 4 trucks. One average train consists of 100+ railcars moving bulk materials, or double that number for double-stack containers. Rail is especially well suited to moving long distances, making rail the ideal mode for moving large shipments. Consider this, one average freight train (consisting of 100 railcars) replaces 400 trucks, making rail the best transportation option for large-scale freight shipping.


The large capacity of rail freight also makes it more cost-effective than trucking. Rail shipping often costs 2-3 times less than shipping by truck on a per-ton-mile basis. This cost difference becomes especially heightened for long-distance moves that are at least 500 miles. The economics of scale kick in for rail at longer distances.


Shipping freight via rail is more environmentally friendly than trucking. One Intermodal double-stack train can carry 200 or more containers in a single trip. That means that 200 dry van trucks are off the roads, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint. By choosing rail, you can also help reduce traffic congestion and accident risks. This makes rail transportation the more environmentally friendly and safer mode of land transport. 


Railroads have continuously focused on safety, and safety is for most rail carriers priority number one. According to the Congressional Research Service and, rail is safer than trucking based on statistics for human death and property destruction, oil spills, and is the least damaging to the environment and habitat among all other modes of transport.

In conclusion, shipping by rail offers tremendous benefits over trucking, including larger capacity, cost-effectiveness, and a reduced carbon footprint.

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