Modal Profile of Freight Transportation, United States

Mode Value Volume Service Distance
Truck Moderate to high Loads of less than 50,000 lbs. On-time performance above 90%. Driver can go 500 miles per day. 2/3 of tonnage carried over less than 100 miles.
Rail Moderate to low Multiple car loads. No weight restrictions. 4 to 7 days delivery time. 60 to 85% on-time performance. Average haul length between 600 and 800 miles.
Intermodal Moderate to high No weight restrictions. 3 days for cross country. On-time performance between truck and rail. Average haul between 700 and 1,500 miles.
Air High Small. Most loads less than 100 lbs. Normally overnight or second day. More than 1,300 miles.
Inland Water Moderate to low Bulk shipments. Varies according to segment. Competitive with rail. Between 250 and 1,600 miles.
Coastal Water Moderate to low Containers, general freight and bulk shipments. Function of distance. Between 2 to 5 days. Between 500 and 2,000 miles.
International Water High to low Mainly containers and bulk shipments. 7 to 10 days trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes. More than 2,600 miles.
Pipeline Low Bulk shipment of liquids and gazes. According to demand. 0 to 20 mph. 825 miles average distance for crude oil.

Source: US-DOT, FHA (1998) US Freight: Economy in Motion.

The table provides an overview of operational considerations of freight transportation modes, notably in the American context. Most of the data also applies to other settings, such as Western Europe.