Ohio’s capital and the largest city in the state, Columbus, has a bustling economy centered around industries like education (The Ohio State University), government, insurance and more.
While those industries aren’t well known for freight shipping, Columbus is also a retail center, with multiple well-known brands headquartered in the city.
It’s located in an agricultural hotspot, with truckloads of produce and food products passing through the city on a regular basis.
Columbus is a featured city along one of the Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) Van Network Lanes: a web of 12 cities where a portion of our dry vans and drivers are concentrated. We regularly have drivers entering and leaving Columbus, bringing inventory to your favorite malls and grocery stores across the country.
Our focus on shipping to and from Columbus means we have learned some of the things that make this city unique to shippers and receivers alike, including popular routes, details about pricing and major industries that dominate shipping in the area. Read this article to learn more about Columbus’ role as a shipping center.
Key Industries That Influence Shipping in Columbus
Columbus has a diverse economy, with strong representation in the education, healthcare and banking sectors. These industries are major local employers.
The food industry also has a major presence in Columbus. White Castle and Wendy’s are both headquartered in the area, along with food manufacturer T. Marzetti. Also related to the food industry is the restaurant supply and equipment company Wasserstrom.
These companies use food-grade reefer trucks and dry vans to distribute food products across the country. Drivers of these trucks will want to return to Columbus, where they will have an easy time finding their next load.
Several large retailers are based in Columbus, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, DSW, Big Lots and Bath & Body Works. These companies employ many Columbus residents and keep trucks filled with retail goods.
Most retail goods travel on a dry van. With the abundance of retail goods and shipments available in Columbus, shippers will usually find it easy (and cost-effective) to get an enclosed vehicle into the city.
Ohio is also a major producer of soybeans and corn, along with other cash crops. While Columbus itself is an urban area, many agricultural products pass through the city on their way to tables across the nation.
A bustling city like Columbus has multiple routes in, out and around the city. Understanding the main thoroughfares keeps freight (and the motoring public) moving around the city safely and efficiently.
Trucking Routes Around Columbus, OH
Columbus is accessible by interstates 70, 71, 270 and 670.
- I-70 is the primary east-west route through the city. This highway intersects with I-71 in downtown Columbus at an intersection known as The Split.
- A portion of the road creates I-270, a ring road that circles the city.
Of particular note for the trucking industry, hazmat freight is prohibited between the I-270 interchanges along I-70.
- The western terminus of I-670 is in Columbus. Traveling east, there are 10 onramps to I-670 within city limits.
Columbus is generally an accessible city for vehicles of all sizes. You’ll notice dry vans and open-deck trucks driving next to commuters and visitors to the city.
Like other large cities, traffic occasionally slows down in Columbus. This usually happens at the beginning and end of the traditional workday as commuters are heading to and from work, or during road construction.
While traffic is an unavoidable part of being on the road, it’s something that shippers and especially truck drivers are hyper aware of. Planning to avoid major roadways during traffic jams is part of a driver’s daily plan, as every minute spent waiting for traffic is time burned on their daily allotted Hours of Service. If possible, work with your transportation provider to avoid having trucks in densely populated areas during traffic jams.
Although Columbus is in a relatively flat area, the surrounding area has plenty of rolling hills and mountains. If you are closely tracking a shipment in this area, you may notice that greater Columbus is the fastest part of the drive as drivers will take advantage of the level ground to travel at a consistent speed.
Of course, the trucking industry isn’t all about driving in and around one area. Understanding how Columbus intersects with other shipping hubs will help explain pricing and truck availability.
Other Major Trucking Hubs Near Columbus
Columbus’ location is central to several major cities as well as a rich agricultural area. This means there is a consistent flow of trucks to and from the city.
- Charlotte, North Carolina, is 425 miles away along I-77. Drivers can typically make this trip in one day.
- The most direct route to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is 469 miles along I-70/I-76. The highway is about eight hours of driving, a distance that a driver can usually make in one day.
Whether freshly harvested produce or household goods, there is always plenty of freight moving in and out of Columbus. This helps shipping costs stay reasonable in the area.
How Much Does It Cost to Ship Freight To and From Columbus?
An abundance of cargo in Columbus means that shippers have a lot of competition for trucks. Because there tends to be more loads than available trucks, this can mean prices to ship out of Columbus are comparatively higher.
Competition drives pricing in the trucking industry. Shipping out of cities like Columbus, where customers need more trucks than are usually available, costs a bit more as customers may have to add a financial incentive to get their loads picked up.
The good news for customers is that trucks will want to get to Columbus, where they know they will be able to get their next profitable load. This means that shipping into Columbus is less expensive than shipping into other cities, as it’s an attractive location for trucks year round.
What Are the Busiest Shipping Seasons In Columbus?
As a city located in an agricultural area, Columbus is busier than usual during peak harvest season, August through October. This also corresponds with shipping for the busy holiday season.
With all this trucking activity making trucks harder to find, expect higher prices in, out and around Columbus during this period. Trucks and drivers know they can charge a premium for their services, and customers looking to stay on schedule will pay.
The slowest shipping seasons in Columbus correspond with the downtime for the trucking industry as a whole — January through March. No agricultural products are moving at this time, and retailers are slowly recovering from the busy holiday season.
During the slow shipping time, customers may find lower transportation costs as trucks are competing for fewer loads.
Columbus is a prime location within the ATS Van Network Lanes. This helps shippers by providing a steady stream of drivers in the area, making it easier to find a truck when needed.
Van Network Lane drivers are home on the weekend, which gives Columbus-local drivers extra incentive to be in the area. At the end of the week they head home and start the new week on Monday morning in Columbus before heading to other destinations.
Regular customers in Columbus will also notice that they work with many of the same drivers and customer service managers on each load. Developing this personal relationship can lead to exceptional service as well as increased security as you know who is working on your haul.
How to Find a Trucking Company in Columbus
Columbus is a great city, both geographically and in terms of industry. This means many trucking companies and brokers move freight through the area on a daily basis. Before choosing a company based on the name on its trailer, consider the investment and dedication the company has to Columbus.
At ATS, we have included Columbus in our Van Network Lanes of interconnected cities. We have drivers and trucks there on a daily basis.
If you’re not ready to choose a transportation provider yet, subscribe to our Learning Hub. We provide regular information about the trucking industry that can help you make your decision. If you’re ready to specify a shipment for Columbus (or any other location), contact us.