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Shipping Heavy Equipment By Rail – Understanding The Basics

Published by Joe Webster.

Cost To Ship My Heavy Equipment By Rail

If you need to ship heavy equipment and you’re exploring your options for cost-effective transportation, you may be considering using rail shipping rather than using a flatbed truck. But is shipping heavy equipment by rail a good idea? What can you expect if you choose this shipment method? In this guide from A-1 Auto Transport, we’ll discuss everything you need to know, and help you decide if shipping heavy equipment by rail is a good choice for you.

Heavy Equipment Pricing & Time To Ship Examples

Shipping To/FroMCostDistanceEstimated Time In Transit
Olathe to Salem$25531459 miles4 - 6 days
Chattanooga to Reno$903516 miles3 - 5 days
Richardson to Palmdale$24521401 miles4 - 6 days
Lowell to Paterson$48562775 miles6 - 8 days
Orlando to Lakewood$215123 miles2 - 3 days
Portland to Sunnyvale$35842048 miles6 - 8 days
Cleveland to Killeen$23401337 miles4 - 6 days
Milwaukee to Charleston$17671010 miles4 - 6 days
Shipping Heavy Equipment By Rail
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How Does Shipping Heavy Equipment By Rail Work?

The process of shipping heavy equipment by rail is fairly easy to understand. You find a rail carrier willing to ship your vehicle, transport it to a freight station, and have it loaded onto a train. Then, it will be shipped to your destination. Depending on the end destination for your shipment, you may also need to hire a flatbed truck for last-mile shipping from the rail freight station.

Shipping heavy equipment by rail is quite common. While it’s rare to find a rail shipper willing to ship smaller vehicles like cars and pickup trucks individually, heavy-duty equipment is large, bulky, and ideal for shipping on a flatbed rail car.

In most cases, flatbed rail cars are the best method for shipping heavy equipment by rail, unless you’re shipping smaller pieces of machinery that can fit in a standard cargo container. These rail cars are similar to the flatbeds you’d find on a tractor-trailer, though they’re usually a bit larger.

It’s sometimes possible to fit two pieces of heavy equipment onto a single flatbed rail car – but in most cases, you’ll only be able to fit one piece of machinery per flatbed car, so you should prepare accordingly.

Why Should I Use Rail Shipping For Heavy Equipment?

Rail shipping for heavy equipment can sometimes be cheaper than using a flatbed and a tractor-trailer. Though this is not always the case, it’s always a good idea to check the price of shipping your equipment by rail, because you could save a significant amount of time and money, in some cases.

As mentioned in the previous section, rail shipping is not common for small private vehicles like cars and trucks, because it’s not cost-effective. However heavy and bulky machinery is much more common because trains are much more suitable for shipping extremely heavy loads, including oversize loads.

However, it should be pointed out that rail shipping for heavy equipment is not always cheaper than hiring a freight shipping company to ship your equipment using a tractor-trailer and a flatbed. The cost depends on how near you are to major rail shipping points, the route your equipment will take, and various other factors.

It’s a good idea to consider both rail shipping and overland shipping with a truck and compare the cost, timeframe, and other benefits of each method.

Shipping Heavy Equipment By Rail Work

How Much Will It Cost To Ship My Heavy Equipment By Rail?

The cost will be different for each shipment. There are a number of factors that can affect how much you’ll pay to ship your equipment, such as overall weight and dimensions, whether or not it’s an oversize load, how far it’s being shipped, and more. Let’s take a deeper look at these factors now.

  • Weight & dimensions – Depending on the size of your machinery and equipment, you may need one or more flatbed rail cars. Each flatbed has a set maximum weight capacity, so even if you could fit multiple pieces of equipment on a single flatbed, they may need to be split up if they exceed this capacity.
  • Oversize load – Oversize load fees are not as high in rail transport as they are in trucking, but oversize loads still require specialized rail cars and precautions. Typically, each rail transport company has a different definition of an oversize load, so you can get further details about oversize loads when getting a quote.
  • Distance of shipment – Just like any other transportation method, the cost of shipping your heavy equipment by rail is significantly affected by the distance of your shipment.
  • Border crossing – Sending equipment to Canada or Mexico will bring additional customs fees and other costs, so make sure to inquire about these costs when getting a quote from a rail transport provider.
  • Additional freight services – If you cannot transport your equipment to the rail freight station yourself or retrieve it from the destination rail freight station, you’ll need to factor in the cost of hiring a flatbed truck to ship your equipment to and from the rail station.

How Long Does It Take To Ship Heavy Equipment By Rail?

In most cases, it will take slightly longer to ship heavy equipment by rail than it would take to ship a piece of machinery directly using a truck and a flatbed. The reason for this is that trains operate on a fixed schedule – and they are not a “point-to-point” delivery system, unlike a truck.

In other words, with rail shipping, you must first ship your equipment to the freight station, have it loaded onto the train, then have it unloaded at its destination. And once it arrives at the final freight station, you’ll have to hire a last-mile shipping company to haul it to the final destination.

In contrast, a truck can pick your equipment up at the site of your choice, load it, drive to the destination, and unload it. This leads to faster overall transit time since there is less downtime and the truck can load your equipment at your specified pick-up and drop-off point.

However, if time is not a serious concern, rail shipping is still a great option. Because trains run on set schedules, the estimated shipping time for your heavy equipment is much more accurate, and it will always be delivered to its destination on time. And, as mentioned above, transporting heavy equipment by rail is very cost-effective – particularly for very large, bulky, and oversize loads.

Shipping Heavy Equipment By Rail

Want To Ship Heavy Equipment By Rail? Contact A-1 Auto Transport Now

At A-1 Auto Transport, we specialize in intermodal shipping. We can help you transport heavy equipment by rail, by truck, and even internationally with maritime transport. If you’re interested in learning more, give us a call at (888) 230-9116 to speak to an agent now, and explore your shipping options for heavy equipment.

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Joe Webster always knew the auto transport industry would be a great career option. And with decades of experience, Joe is now an established consultant for A1 Auto Transport.

Joe was born in Santa Cruz, California. During high school, Joe worked as a mechanic; a job continued to work part-time during his bachelor's degree.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd,
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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