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Road freight is the most commonly used mode of cargo transportation in the UK and Europe.

But does that mean it’s the right option for your goods? Every type of transport has its pros and cons. Read this blog to find out what to expect with road freight and see if it’s right for you.

Understanding Road Freight

Road freight is the transportation of cargo using vans or lorries that travel around on local road networks. It’s a cost-effective and practical way of shipping your goods from A to B, whether within the UK or internationally. 

This mode of transport can take your consignment the whole way to its destination, but it can also be used in conjunction with air and sea freight modes to get your goods right to the door. 

Types Of Vehicle

Depending on the nature, size and volume of your goods, various vehicle options exist. 

  • Vans are ideal for moving smaller goods.
  • Rigid lorries are a good bet for commercial deliveries but may not be suitable for all items because they typically only feature rear-only access. Their capacity is somewhere around 26 tonnes or 14 standard pallets. 
  • Articulated lorries have two parts, a tractor and a trailer, and are the most popular choice for international haulage because the trailer can travel independently from the tractor and be collected by another driver in the destination country. Their maximum capacity is 44 tonnes, and they can measure up to 16.5m in length. 
  • Temperature-controlled trucks keep perishable goods at their optimum climate during their journey so that they don’t spoil.

Methods Of Road Freight

If you’ve read any of our blogs about sea freight, you’ll have come across the terms LCL and FCL. Here, we discuss the difference between the road freight equivalents…

Less-Than Truckload

Less-than-truckload, or LTL freight is the main mode of shipping for businesses who aren’t shipping enough goods to fill an entire truck (or lorry, or artic, or van, you get the point). In LTL shipping, businesses share truck space and transport costs to achieve a cost-effective way of sending their goods. 

LTL shipping does take longer, however. A truck full of consignments with different destinations means that multiple stops and tremendous amounts of unpacking and repacking is usually involved.

Full Truck Load

FTL freight is, as you’d expect, a shipment of large enough size and volume to completely fill a truck. Some companies choose to use FTL shipping even when the truck is not fully filled, or if they have delicate goods they want to protect. FTL freight is more expensive than LTL. 

The Advantages Of Road Freight

With a huge network of roads worldwide, road freight offers plenty of benefits. 


Road freight often offers more competitive pricing than other freight modes. Road vehicles are not as costly as ships, trains and planes; they’re cheaper to buy and fuel and don’t need ports, stations or airports.


A road freight vehicle can get anywhere there are roads. This provides far better accessibility for many remote and rural locations that other modes of transport can’t reach. 

Road transport also offers incredible flexibility when it comes to scheduling and problems in transit. Planes, trains and ships are tied to pre-determined schedules and fixed routes, meaning cancellations and delays are common. Road freight vehicles can re-route in an instant!

Few Limitations

Unlike other ways of getting your cargo from A to B, it’s simple to use road freight when transporting special or dangerous goods. You can ship anything by truck, including perishable products, heavy machinery, fragile goods and hazardous materials.

Door To Door

This is the big one. With road freight, a consignment can be collected from the point of origin and taken to the destination without any requirements for other modes of transport. The goods don’t even need to be handled at all, reducing the risk of damage or loss.

Easily Trackable

GPS and specialist fleet management software mean you can easily track the progress your cargo is making. Real-time information like this enables businesses to provide excellent customer service, and it also helps with planning journeys around road closures, accidents and even adverse weather.


Road vehicles are faster to load and start up, meaning that although some freight modes are faster, road freight is an extremely efficient option for many journeys. Whether you need same-day or 48-hour delivery for a consignment, or your goods need to travel long-distance to get where they need to be, using wheels for transport could be your best solution.

The Drawbacks Of Road Freight

There are some less positive factors to consider before opting for road freight, however.

Traffic Restrictions

Vehicles in transit are at the mercy of traffic problems and road closures. Re-routing is often simple, but traffic isn’t always escapable and often delays deliveries. 

Inefficient For Long Distance

Where road freight works beautifully for short or medium-length journeys, it’s not always your best bet for long-distance transport and can work out much slower than other modes of transportation. 

Travel Risks

Road transport has a high accident rate, and there’s always the risk that the vehicle will break down mid-journey. 

By investing heavily in safety, updating and maintaining fleet vehicles and training drivers, sector professionals can reduce the risks but not avoid them altogether.

Small(er) Capacity

If you’re shipping large consignments, road freight is probably not the way to go. Even the newest mega monster freight truck, standing proud with around 60 tons of available capacity, barely touches the holding capabilities of ships, trains and planes.

Need help making sense of the numbers? A standard 40-foot container can take approximately 25 tons, and standard cargo ships can carry around 1,000 of these. That makes for a total carrying capacity of 25,000 tons! 

This means that for large loads, road freight isn’t cost-efficient.

Is Road Freight Right For You?

Road freight is a logical and economical solution for deliveries of smaller consignments and shorter journeys. It is also the mode of freight which is easiest to decarbonise for greener alternatives.

If your cargo is travelling in the UK or within Europe, road freight is quick, reliable and agile.

Road Freight – The Popular Choice

With a fantastic network of roads and motorways, it’s no surprise that road freight accounts for around 80% of freight on the move in the UK.

Not sure it’s right for you? Don’t worry about selecting the most suitable mode of transport for your goods; that’s what we’re for. Get in touch with us today and find out how we can help.