Eiffel Trading 101: Transportation – Trucks vs. Barges

In the heavy-civil and marine construction industry, choosing the right transportation can make or break your budget. Two common modes of transporting construction material involve barges and trucks. It goes without saying that barges are substantially larger than semi-trailers and can carry significantly greater loads. An average barge can handle ~1,500 tons of cargo compared to an average truck that can handle ~24 tons of cargo. Here are a couple things to consider when you’re thinking about using a barge or truck for your project’s transportation:


The length of the material you are hauling can significantly impact the price of transportation. For trucks, most trailers range from 48’-53’ and the DOT allows you to have some overhang (depending on state). If you are hauling 100’ sheet pile, your trucking costs will increase substantially due to having to permit and escort the load (again, depending on the state). Most standard hopper barges are able to easily fit material over 150’ in length.


How close is your steel mill or supplier from a barge loading facility? Do you have a barge offloading capabilities on your site? If your supplier does not have barge loading capabilities, you will have to truck the material to a stevedore, then pay them to load your barge. In addition, if you do not have barge offloading capabilities on your site, you will have to find a stevedore again and pay them to offload your barge, then load the material onto trucks to finish up the transport. The stevedore and extra trucking costs can add up quickly.


If you are needing material within the next couple days, trucking will most likely be the quicker option. Barge transportation is more suited for when you have large quantities of material that have several days/weeks before they need to arrive.

Another time related factor when using a barge is demurrage. Demurrage is the charge assessed for detaining a vessel beyond the free time stipulated for loading or unloading in the contract. It is extremely important to make sure you have consider loading and offloading time properly when using barge transportation. Demurrage can be up to several hundred dollars/day.


A single barge can transport significantly larger volumes than a single truck. One barge can transport the volume of approximately 60 trucks – depending on the cargo moved. Barges are typically moved in a 15-barge tow. If you only have one or two barges of material, you will need to find a way to get into a tow that is heading your direction. If you are hiring a dedicated tow for one or two barges, the economics will most likely favor trucking the material.

As you can see, there are many variables to consider when transporting material via barge or truck. Sometimes the factors aren’t only economics, but feasibility. If you have a construction project starting up that requires working from barges, please check out our large selection of used barges and work boats. If you have any questions, you can reach us at 1-800-541-7998 or email sales@eiffeltrading.com.



Andrew Norman is one of the co-founders of Eiffel Trading. His background is in Heavy-Civil and Marine Construction in Project Management and Procurement. Through his work in Project Management, he worked on several projects where steel pipe pile, sheet pile, access trestle, beams and other materials were delivered via barge and trucks.