Long-Haul Delivery

Long-haul transportation is the foundation of domestic and international logistics.

This type of delivery involves the transportation of cargo, such as raw materials, goods and correspondence, over long distances both in and out of the country.

According to various estimates, long-haul transportation accounts for 60 to 75% of global freight traffic. The remaining percent occurs during the last mile delivery, which is usually geographically limited to one city or region. Despite the fact that since 2020 the field of delivery to the end consumer has been rapidly rising, the core of global logistics is still long-distance transportation that connects international enterprises.

Long-haul delivery classification

Long-haul transportation can be classified in different ways depending on the type of transport, cargo volume, location of departure and destination points, number of counterparties in the supply chain, and other criteria. Let's review the most classifications.


Considering the type of transport carrying out deliveries, we can distinguish four main types of long-distance cargo transportation.

1. Road freight

Auto freight is the most common type of long-haul transportation. It is widely used to deliver goods to neighboring regions and countries due to its competitive cost, flexibility, and simplicity.

A car or a truck can cover fairly long distances by land and transport almost everything— except for special cargo types and large objects, such as industrial equipment and bulky building structures. Also, the movement of vehicles is easy to track and control, while modern logistics software allows routes and delivery schedules to be quickly adjusted in real time.

2. Railway freight

This type of long-haul delivery can be used only in areas covered by railway tracks; therefore, railway freight is often combined with road freight. Trains are best suited for the delivery of petroleum products, large objects, and bulk and liquid cargo—as well as for transportation over very long distances that are unprofitable to fulfill by road.

Railway freight is subject to a large number of requirements and rules, which can change the travel time unpredictably: for example, the lack of a wagon fleet and downtime on hauls can cause severe delays in deliveries.

3. Water freight

This category includes river and sea freight. Water transport has a large carrying capacity and is able to cover huge distances, so it can be very efficient. River freight is most often used to transport building materials within the region, while sea freight is used for the international delivery of large consignments of goods and to move large objects.

The disadvantages of water freight include the long travel time and its high dependence on meteorological and geographical features. The course of the ship is formed taking into account currents, winds, and weather conditions—a sudden storm can delay delivery for several weeks.

4. Air freight

Air freight is both the most expensive and fastest way to transport cargo. It is used in situations where the speed of delivery plays a crucial role. Therefore, perishable and small goods, valuable cargo, and mail are transported mostly by air.

Air freight is subject to strict requirements for the weight and dimensions of the cargo placed on board the aircraft. Also, the geography of air freight is limited to cities that have airports.

In the process of cargo delivery, one or several types of transport can be used. So, these are further classifications:

  • Unimodal or direct transportation, in which only one type of transport is used—for example, only trucks.

  • Mixed transportation, in which two or more types of transport are used. As an example, an electronics company sends a batch of products by air to another country, and then a distributor delivers goods to different warehouses by road.

Usually, several companies are involved in mixed transportation. Depending on how they are responsible for the cargo and the route, mixed transportation can be divided into two types:

1. Intermodal transportation: transportation is carried out by several companies, and the transport contract specifies each participant’s responsibility.

2. Multimodal transportation: transportation is carried out by several companies, but only one of them bears responsibility under the transport contract.


Speaking of vehicles, there are three types of long-haul transportation; they take into account the mass of the cargo and the volume of the batch:

1. Low-tonnage transportation: delivery of homogeneous goods with a small mass in small batches.

2. Large-tonnage transportation: delivery of homogeneous goods in large batches.

3. Groupage transportation: delivery of heterogeneous goods, which in total have a large mass and volume.

The characteristics of the cargo also determine the specifics of long-distance transportation. In particular, there are several types of cargo that are subject to particular requirements fixed at the legislative level:

  • Dangerous cargo

    Items or materials that can harm human health and/or the environment. Dangerous goods must be accompanied by a freight forwarder during transportation.

  • Perishable goods

    Foodstuffs and plants that require a certain temperature and atmospheric conditions to be maintained.

  • Oversized and super-heavy cargo

    Industrial units, turbines, buildings, and other non-standard objects of large sizes.

  • Live cargo

    Animals and birds. When transporting them, additional documentation, such as veterinary certificates, is required.


Depending on where the departure and destination points are located, long-haul delivery can be classified into two types:

1. Interregional transportation

The points of departure and destination are located within the same country and are at least 50 kilometers away from each other. In this case, to perform the delivery, you need to leave the city or cross the border between territorial units, such as provinces, states, etc.

2. International transportation

The points of departure and destination are located in different countries. During the delivery, you’ll need to cross one or more national borders.

For international long-haul delivery, additional documents must be issued for the driver, the vehicle, and the cargo itself—the list depends on the specific country. In addition, unforeseen delays at the border may change the delivery schedule, and this must be taken into account when planning the delivery.

Long-haul delivery problems

Long-haul transportation has higher predictability than last-mile delivery.

Intracity delivery is typically characterized by high-speed operation with a large number of requirements and details, which are dynamically changing. The current road conditions, the time to find a parking space, and customers’ unexpected actions—all of these factors must be considered in real time when planning and replanning last mile routes. In addition, violating the SLA can cause an acute negative response in the client; they may even opt for a competitor for future deliveries.

In the case of long-haul delivery, the logistician has to deal with long distances and lengthy timelines. Therefore, when planning deliveries, many low-level details that are extremely important in the last mile can be neglected as a small margin of error.

What then are the problems of long-haul delivery?

  • 1. Downtime and increased costs

    Large-capacity vehicles spend lots of time both on the road and at the loading & unloading points. It takes several hours to collect or receive a large batch of cargo. If mistakes were made when planning routes, the vehicle may arrive at the client's warehouse too late — for example, half an hour before the end of the day—or too early, when employees haven’t yet unloaded the previous delivery.

    Both situations lead to downtime: in the first case, the delivery won’t be accepted until the next day. The second situation would cause a delay of a few hours. The greater the total downtime, the lower the number of completed orders per vehicle.

    Low utilization of vehicles leads to an increase in mileage and fuel costs, fleet maintenance, driver salaries, and much more. For companies with a large supply volume, these costs can reach millions of dollars per year.

  • 2. Backhauling

    Long-haul delivery has a specific problem of backhauling. After drivers complete the delivery, they will have a long distance to travel back. If the truck is empty the whole way back, it will decrease the transport utilization and increase the mileage as well as the related costs.

    In order to avoid this, when planning delivery, an additional load can be included. For example, a driver can call a supplier’s warehouse for goods, pick up a return, or collect packaging.

    Also, transport companies that long-distance delivery can handle low utilization by transporting small batches of goods on the way back. This service is in demand among small companies since backway transportation is much cheaper than ordering a separate vehicle.

    While planning a backway load, it is necessary to consider additional stopping points, time windows, weight and size characteristics of the cargo, its compatibility, and much more. At the same time, you need to take into account the difference in the spending on loaded and empty vehicles—and, thus, plan routes considering the current mileage and fuel consumption.

  • 3. Working hours

    During the trip, the driver needs to get enough rest. In most countries, labor laws—including the maximum hours in a workweek—are set at the legislative level.

    In addition to legal restrictions, the driver's comfort must be taken into account when planning long-haul delivery. The route must not just meet the requirements of the operation model; it must also provide stopping points to eat meals and spend the night.

    In the case of international transportation, it's necessary to keep in mind that the requirements for work and rest in different countries may differ. If the driver has to cross the border, the planning must consider possible changes in the schedule.

  • 4. Transport maintenance

    Heavy goods vehicles cover large distances and spend a long time in continuous motion. This raises the wear of transport and, as a result, incurs significant risks both for the driver and the company.

    If there are any serious technical problems, or if an accident occurs on the road, the delivery schedule will be disrupted. Furthermore, the cost of repairing a heavy truck can amount to thousands of dollars. The driver will also have to wait for help for an uncertain time: a tow truck or technical assistance can take a long time to get to the right site—in some instances, up to several weeks.

    To prevent possible problems on the road, it is necessary to consider the maintenance schedule for each vehicle when planning long-distance transportation. It will help avoid troubles along the way, therefore reducing supply chain disruptions.

  • 5. Axle load

    The permissible axle load for different types of trucks is fixed in the legislation of any country.

    An uneven and overweight axle load can damage the road’s surface and pose danger not only to the vehicle itself, increasing its wear, but also to other drivers. An overloaded truck can lean dangerously when turning a corner, and its braking distance increases.

    While scheduling long-haul transportation, you need to keep in mind the current requirements for the axle load. This will depend on the type of vehicle, type of wheels, number of axles, distance between them, etc. At the same time, different regions may have their own rules—and they could be permanent or seasonal.

  • 6. Palletizing

    Large batches of goods are often transported during long-haul delivery; each of them can contain thousands of packages of different shapes and sizes.

    The denser the cargo is packed, the fewer vehicles will be required to deliver it. Therefore, while route planning, it is necessary to consider the location of goods inside the truck body—this will help you to cut transportation costs.

    Automated packaging planning allows you to calculate the layout of goods with an accuracy of 0.04 inches, considering weight and size characteristics, height and weight restrictions, cargo compatibility, and customer requirements.

  • 7. Hubs and cross-docking

    In multimodal transportation, the shipping method changes during the delivery. Thus, a new link appears in the supply chain — hubs. These are large terminals that reload goods dynamically, without long-term storage. The process of changing the type of transport during reloading is called cross-docking.

    Cross-docking is usually used by companies with a large turnover to reduce transportation costs. Small companies that sell durable goods rarely use cross-docking, as it may not be profitable for them.

    When planning long-haul delivery, a logistician must consider the specifics of the hub's operation and the type of cross-docking. The cargo can pass through the warehouse as a fixed order, or it can be repackaged or sent to a customer as part of different batches. This variability must be taken into account while routing.

  • 8. Various types of transport

    A company's logistics model may involve multiple types of vehicles—for example, tractors and semi-trailers. They have different functions and different logic within the system as well.

    In the process of long-haul delivery planning, it is necessary to consider the characteristics of different types of transport while avoiding both downtime and lack of vehicles.

How to increase the efficiency of long-haul delivery?

  • 1. Automate logistics management

    Delivery planning involves a large amount of information: departure and destination points, time windows, cargo characteristics and compatibilities, legal requirements and restrictions, transport data, driver shift schedules, current road conditions, etc. All this must be considered while planning in order to make optimal routes and t0 avoid both downtime and transport shortages.

    With a larger fleet size, this problem becomes impossible to solve efficiently by working manually; no human is able to operate with such a volume of data without errors. Moreover, manual calculations take a lot of time, create an excessive load, and distract the employee from other equally important problems.

    Logistics automation will reduce the number of errors in delivery scheduling, cut the route planning time, and help you to manage human resources more efficiently.

    Thanks to Veeroute, the transport company reduced route planning time by 95% and was able to maintain a high service level.

  • 2. Optimize delivery planning.

    Finding the optimal routes is about choosing the best possible combination, but there is a tremendous number to consider. The human brain is simply not able to analyze each of them and choose the best option, especially in a limited time. Yet, an optimal schedule allows you to avoid downtime, keep expenses stable, and ensure high fleet utilization.

    The combinatorial optimizer performs long-haul delivery planning in minutes. Depending on which challenges your business needs to solve, it optimizes routes according to a given criterion—whether it be costs, fuel consumption, mileage, service level, etc.

    A transport company increased its fleet’s performance by 8% and achieved 12% mileage savings in the first month after implementing Veeroute's optimizer.

  • 3. Consider the details significant to business logic.

    However, finding optimal routes is not enough. In order to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of long-haul delivery, you need to consider details that affect both the transport logistics operations and business processes in general. These include current legal restrictions, palletizing requirements, the specific features of different transport types, and much more.

    Optimization allows you to handle it quickly and efficiently. Performed by optimization software, long-haul delivery planning takes much less time than manual calculations, as the optimizer is able to consider many parameters that determine the company's business logic.

    As an example, Veeroute's solution for a transport company considers the specifics of two types of transportation: tractors and semi-trailers. The system takes into account the difference in the logic of these two entities and thus performs more efficient planning.