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What is the Difference Between Over the Road vs. Rail Transport?

When shipping goods, one big question that comes to mind is which method of transportation you should use to have the best outcome. Over the Road (OTR) or Rail Transportation (Intermodal). So, which one should you choose? We’ll cover every detail of both OTR and Rail Transport, including their similarities and differences, so you can decide which method of transport will ship your equipment and commodities at the best rate.

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Over the Road (OTR) Transport: What Is It?

over the road OTR transport semi truck and trailer hauling goods down a busy highway

OTR Transportation is used when the total distance the cargo will travel is performed by truck or railway. Based on if the cargo is for a full truckload (FTL), which is referred to an entire trailer reserved for a single shipper’s freight, or less-than-truckload (LTL), which is referred to allowing multiple shippers to share space on the same truck, Over the Road Transport would be the ideal solution for a more efficient shipment. Some Advantages of OTR Transport include:

  • It can be accessed from nearly every local destination but is ideal for shorter distances.
  • It provides door-to-door service.
  • It comes with cheaper packing costs and enables more flexibility in scheduling deliveries.

Rail Transportation: What Is It?

intermodal rail transportation train and box cars hauling goods

Rail shipping is using trains and railroads to transport goods. In comparison to OTR, Rail Transport is the most cost-effective solution for transporting heavy items over long distances. Some Advantages of Rail Transport include:

  • This method of transport is fuel efficient. For example, rail can transport 1 ton of freight across more than 470 miles, all off a single gallon of fuel.
  • Rail Transport can carry the equivalent of 400 trucks.
  • It is a cost-effective alternative to trucks.
  • Reduces congestion on the road and maintains reliable transit times.

OTR vs. Rail Transport: What’s the Difference?

For both OTR Transportation and Rail Transportation, they each come with unique differences. With OTR Transportation, you will get flexibility, safety, and security. With Rail Transportation, you will get tremendous cost savings, while with OTR, it delivers a more efficient shipment process. Although OTR and Rail Transport complement each other in the sense that they both are in the business of transporting goods, they do have distinct differences. With OTR Transport, it includes full truckload, less-than-truckload, and van transportation. It can haul a wide range of products in any size order, from a single pallet to 30 skids. OTR can go any distance, dry or temperature-controlled, fragile or vibration sensitive product. Intermodal Rail Transport hauls high-volume freight and can travel more than 700 miles at a time. Rail Transport can also carry products in dry or temperature-controlled conditions. If you are looking for convenience, OTR would be the ideal mode of transportation. If you’re looking to save a few hundred dollars for every load, Rail Transport would be the best option.

Which One Should I Use?

As mentioned previously, determining the next route of transportation for your goods is an essential component of operating your business. For example, if you are in need to move heavy, bulky material constantly, Rail Transportation would be the best match. Most industries familiar with or that have used Rail Transport are agriculture, manufacturing, petroleum-based products, energy, chemicals, forest products, and automotive. If you’re looking for more flexibility and more secure transport, then OTR would be the most ideal choice. Specifically, goods that require a temperature-controlled environment are an indicator that OTR Transport is the way to go.

Get a Quote for OTR Trucking & Rail Transport Services Today

semi truck transporting goods over the road with the Lone Star Logistics logo stamped in the corner

Looking for OTR or Rail Transportation assistance? Lone Star Logistics has you covered. Our team offers a wide offering of logistical and transportation services, including flatbed transport, step-deck transport, oversized loads, tanker transport, and hazmat transport. Based on what you are looking for, our team is here to help. To get started, fill out our Quote Request Form via our website. We will be in touch within 24 hours to schedule a call to discuss your needs.

Please note that Lone Star Logistics is a federally licensed freight brokerage company. If you have any questions regarding our logistical and transportation services, visit our contact page or reach out to us by phone (833) 562-3722 or by email We are excited to work with you!

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