Auto Shipping FAQ: Can I Ship a Vehicle Via the Railroad?
In the United States the railroads were the nation’s prime method of transportation during the 19th century. First developed in the late 18th century, the locomotive was at first slow in seeing its adoption as the standard transportation service for the fledgling country, but by the 1850’s the railroads criss-crossing the country had become a vital part of our infrastructure. The railroads also became important tactically during the American Civil War, as access to the railroad lines meant access to fresh reinforcements, weapons and ammunition and food coming from the people back home. Though today the popularity of the railroads is at perhaps its lowest point ever, thanks to new methods of transportation that are faster, easier and more adequate to our needs, the industry is still around, hauling freight for different customers and businesses along age-old tracks.
Though the car shipping industry has, by and large, grown past the point of needing transportation services via rail, that doesn’t mean that it is completely forgotten. Most auto shippers today use big, open ten-car transport trucks to haul their customers’ freight, on account of auto transport trucks being readily available along more nationwide routes than the railroads. Being able to find a freight hauler quickly is a hallmark sign of a good transportation company, and the best ones know all the biggest auto transport companies on the roads today. They can’t make connections with railroad companies like that; it’s a much different industry, with different rules and regulations, and as a result of that the experience of shipping freight via a railroad company as opposed to with an overland auto transport truck tends to be less grand and more frustrating.
It doesn’t help that auto transporters who do ship along the railroad lines can only provide access along a limited route. Unlike transportation trucks, trains are still mired to the tracks, and they go where the tracks go. There are over 233,000 miles of railroad tracks in the United States. That may seem like a lot, but the road system in the U.S. is much more expansive. Let me put it another way: since 1980, the United States has added over 183,000 miles of roadways nationwide, including local roads, connectors and both state and interstate highways. The Interstate Highway System – the main logistical artery of the U.S. – spans over 47,000 miles of roadway nationwide. The Office of Highway Policy Information, which oversees the nation’s roadways, estimates that the Interstate Highway System comprises just one percent of the nation’s total available roadways.
All told, if my math is right, there are over 4,700,000 – 4.7 million – miles of public roadway in the United States. That is a staggering number. Of course, this includes all roadways, including those that auto transporters are too big to travel along, but at the same time, that 233,000 miles of railroads in the country seems rather paltry in comparison. This is one of the biggest reasons why auto transport via truck is so much more popular – there are so many more places that transport trucks can get to that railroads cant. Why book with a company that makes you do a lot more work like driving to the train depot and dropping it off and then waiting and then having to go to the new train station and dealing with attendants and workers and a whole slew of other problems when you can just book with an auto carrier and they drive it to your destination in half the time?
If you’ve ever wondered why auto transportation by rail is not more common, now you know: it got blown out of the water by the automobile, or more specifically the automobile transport truck. If you have your heart set on shipping your car via rail, you should be aware that the only routes currently available are up and down the east coast – this comes back to the fact that there are over 4.7 million miles of roadways. If you’re interested in shipping a vehicle, make sure to fill out our free online quote request form; if you do, you’ll receive multiple free quotes from some of the best auto transport companies in the industry. If you’re interested in auto transport by rail, you can discuss it with one of their representatives, but don’t be surprised if it turns out that it’s unavailable along your route. If you have further questions, make sure to give us a call at 800-930-7417 to speak to one of our live agents, who in addition to helping you get your free quotes can answer any questions you may have about shipping a vehicle.