Modes of cargo transport offer a wide choice to cover cost and time concerns. They include trucking, van, rail, airplane, boat or barge for domestic transport and airplane or shipping for international. Long distance movement of goods may require intermodal, more than one means of transport. Cargo that must cross land, sea, and air is moved by a combination of rail, trucks, ships or ferries, and possibly air.
Time vs Cost
The business owner must consider the overall time and cost needs when deciding on the mode of transport for his goods. Reliability is a major consideration. Air travel diminishes the possibility of damage to goods because of the shorter distance and the time required to move cargo from the starting point to the destination. The air cargo service staff is also highly trained to handle a wide range of goods, from robust to the most delicate. If the business has a tight budget and no problem with wait time, freight costs are less with road and waterways.
Costs can vary widely when shipping freight. Generally shipment by rail is the most cost effective within the continental United States. This is especially true when bulk shipments are carried over long distances. If time is a consideration, air freight is the most efficient.
According to the World Bank, air freight cost is typically four to five times that of road transport and twelve to sixteen times that of sea. Usually, rail is much cheaper than truck. Domestically, train transport is at the bottom of the cost scale, with truck, vans, and ferries or boats next. At the top is the cost of air freight. Depending on the size of the shipment, goods can by shipped by way of passenger or cargo planes. Internationally, ships are by far the least costly. The business owner must decide which is more important money or time in moving goods from one place to another.
Since the 1970s the use of containers has simplified the movement of freight from one mode to the other. Goods are packed in the containers then the container can be lifted by cranes to be transported from one mode of travel to the other, reducing the possibility of loss and breakage. If the goods are not sufficient to fill a container, the cost of air travel could be less than by sea.
Not only is there a wide variation in the costs of different modes, the prices within each shipping classification will vary. Estimates, usually free, should be compared before making the final decision.