Overland transportation

What is overland transportation?

is a combination of two means of transport: truck transport and rail transport. These two sectors are sometimes competitors and sometimes allies, and transport similar or very different kinds of goods. Truck transportation is the form of road transport most used in France.

Both means have their strengths and weaknesses. is less expensive, yet more polluting than rail transport. The latter is better-suited to non-bulk, light or disparate deliveries.


Specificities of overland transportation

  • is vastly competitive, due to the free circulation of goods and people in the Schengen area.
  • With e-commerce having sky-rocketed, pressure has grown between companies who are always looking to enhance customer loyalty by offering shorter lead times and cheaper delivery fees.
  • Outsize trucks deliver exceptionally large goods.

Each product type has its own truck best suited for delivery:

  • Dry goods such as steel, coal, grain, etc.
  • Hazardous goods: fuel, chemicals, petrol, etc.
  • Liquids: water, milk, oils, drinks, etc.
  • Bulk products;
  • Heavy freight: boats, plane parts, mechanical and industrial components.

Overland transportation is done by rail 9% of the time in France.

  • Rail transport rather focuses on transporting extremely large quantities of high-volume and/or heavy goods.
  • Choosing this kind of transport is relevant for train-truck or waterway-rail combinations when large volumes are at play.
  • To be profitable, the train must be full both on the way to and from the delivery point.


Examples and practical applications

Advantages of rail transport

France has an extremely high-performance rail network, that links all major French cities and most European capitals. This serves as a huge advantage for logisticians wishing to deliver bulk goods over long distances.

  • In France, rail transport for freight has dropped drastically from 45% in 1947 to 9% in 2019.
  • Rail transport generates the best value for money.
  • Increasing to 18% over the next ten years would bring the country up to Germany’s level. The European Commission has set a goal of 30% for rail transport by 2030.

consumes about 16 million tonnes of fuel equivalent per year. Over 95% are in the form of petrol-derived fuel, given the trucks’ high consumption levels.

represents a total consumption of 44 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, i.e. 10% of France’s CO2 emissions. Trucks represent 50% of this, smaller vans 48%, and rail transport only 1% (Source: The Shift Project/Datalab).

Increasing to 18% would save 8 million tonnes of CO2 per year. This level could only be reached as of 2030, given the major investments required for this kind of transport.

For now, road transport appears to be the most competitive. In France, sticks by its low prices, practicality for all product types, and the presence of loading and unloading terminals throughout the entire country. Quite naturally, ecological factors are still a source of debate.


Overland transportation in figures

France boasts vast transport infrastructures:

  • 683,500 miles of roads;
  • 17,400 miles of railway lines;
  • 111,850 miles of metro, RER and tram lines;
  • Road transport currently represents 89.1% of all transport, excluding oil pipelines, and rail only represents 9%. [1]


Regulatory cornerstones

(EEC) ACTE Regulation no. 881/92 adjudicated by the Council on 26 March 1992 pertaining to access to the goods transport market via road infrastructures within the European Community, departing from or arriving in a Member State’s territory, or crossing one or several Member States’ territories.


[1] Source of the figures: /