When it comes to ground transportation there are numerous options, however when deciding to choose one particular method factors such as cost, time and distance are important. The two most common types of land transportation are over-the-road (OTR) and intermodal trucking (combination of rail and truck).

When to Use OTR Transportation

The term “OTR Transportation” is used when the total distance the cargo will travel is done via truck.

For full truckload (FTL) or less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments you want to opt for this method of transport, especially if the cargo falls into one of the categories below:

  • Expedited or time-sensitive shipments
  • Cargo with a high monetary value or that is fragile
  • Cargo that requires temperature-controlled

Advantages of OTR Transportation

Flexibility and Size

The most significant advantage of OTR transportation is the flexibility it provides. A specialized truckload carrier is not bound by train schedules and therefore can transport merchandise whenever and wherever it is needed.

Safety and Security

While rail is a safe mode of transportation for high-value items, many shippers choose to move them by truck OTR to ensure that cargo is always under the custody of the driver who can maintain a closer eye on the goods than rail service can.

Today’s Challenges of OTR Transportation

Trucker Shortage

The American Trucking Associations recently released a statement indicating that the truck driver shortage had reached an all-time high of nearly 80,000 drivers. This data represents the difference between the current number of drivers available vs the number of drivers needed to meet freight demand.

Highway Traffic and Tolls

With an annual population growth rate of 0.71 percent, the United States adds approximately 2,300,000 people each year. The roads are becoming increasingly congested, causing delays and vehicle accidents. To compensate for the loss in driver productivity, deliveries into major metropolitan areas now charge additional fees which add up fast.

Environmental Impact

The transportation industry produces one-third of all carbon emissions and 28 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year. Scientists and engineers are working around the clock to develop new energy sources that will help minimize pollution, and electric semis are already available. However, 90% of the trucking industry is made up of mom-and-pop operations with six or fewer trucks. Electric semis are out of their price range.

Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal transportation, as explained in the introduction is when a combination of rail and truck is used to move cargo from one point to another. It is a reliable service that could cut costs since the longest portion of the distance the cargo will travel will be via rail.

Advantages of Intermodal Transportation

Since 1980 the United States have invested more than $635 billion in railroad infrastructure and the rail network is expected to continue to expand in the coming years thanks to the recent bill “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’ passed by congress.

The main benefits of shipping by intermodal transportation include:

Cost Savings

Rail transportation is more cost-effective than OTR. When compared to OTR transport, rail has reduced fuel costs and less labor costs.


Rail is the most environmentally friendly mode of land freight transportation. According to the AAR a railway can transport one ton of freight roughly 480 miles on a single gallon of fuel (almost 4 times more efficient than moving it on the highway). Shippers can help lower their carbon footprint while increasing their profit line by improving supply chain efficiencies using intermodal rail.

Reduce High-way Congestion

Railroads help to mitigate the massive economic costs of traffic congestion. According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2019 Urban Mobility Report, highway congestion cost Americans over 8.8 billion hours in lost time and at least 3.3 billion gallons of wasted fuel. Congested highways also cause cargo delays, resulting in lost time and frustration for the supply chain overall. A single freight train, on the other hand, can replace hundreds of trucks, freeing up roadway space for other motorists and alleviating traffic congestion.

Some drawbacks of Intermodal Transportation

  • Rail transit can be slower than vehicle transport since routes and timetables are inflexible, especially cargo need to reach rural areas.
  • Congested rail ramps (specially now because of the lack of truck drivers)
  • Services might be disrupted by mechanical failure or industrial action
  • Some locations may lack rails services, forcing the use of exclusively truck transportation

Choosing the Best Mode of Transportation

Promptus LLC has over 20 years of experience in global logistics and can provide professional freight forwarding services, including land transportation. We will help you decide which mode of transport is more convenient to move your cargo. Call us today at 305-687-1405!