Is container shipping in Europe cheaper than road transport?

We will look into this matter by comparing the price of 1 truck  vs 1 40ft sea container.

Why a 40ft container?

Because it is the closest to the measurements of a truck trailer.
As a side note, we do not compare the speed of transportation, because here land transport clearly has an edge.

road transport

The most typical truck trailer characteristics:

  • Capacity 80-90m3
  • Max weight 24t
  • Length 13.6m
  • Width 2.45m
  • Height 2.4-2.7m
  • Can fit up to 34 EUR pallets

A standard 40ft container characteristics:

  • Capacity 67.6m3
  • Length 12.03m
  • Width 2.35m
  • Height 2.39m
  • Can fit up to 25 EUR pallets

container shipping

Price examples

Example1: We want to transport a full truckload of goods from Aylesbury, UK to Paide, Estonia. The market price for an FTL today (September 2013) is ca. 2 600 EUR + VAT. The price of a 40ft container is ca. 2 285 EUR + VAT.

Example2: A full truckload of goods from Zele, Belgium to Paide, Estonia. The price for an FTL is ca. 1 950 EUR + VAT compared to that of a 40ft container 1 850 EUR + VAT.


From the given examples we can see that road transport is firstly 315 EUR and secondly 100 EUR more expensive. However, as the measurements of a trailer are bigger, you can fit more cargo into it.

So when transporting your cargo on EUR pallets you should prefer to ship with road transport, because the trailers support fitting in all EUR pallets without leaving any unused space.

Attention should be paid to shipments where one does not use the maximum given space available. This typically happens when the shipment is not standardized and has special measurements.

Such shipments are typically placed in the middle of the trailer and fastened with belts. Even when there is some extra space left in the trailer, usually one cannot use it due to the belts. So your less than truckload (LTL) shipment quickly becomes an FTL shipment. This could be avoided with using a container. Using a container would mean that the shipping price would be cheaper for you and you could maximize the usage of space.

We strongly advise you to consider sea transportation as an alternative. If you would like price examples for your destination then be sure to contact us.