Freight Shipping To and From Houston, Texas: A Closer Look

Houston Texas skyline night

If it’s true that everything’s bigger in Texas, that’s certainly true of Houston. It’s the nation’s fourth-largest city in terms of population. Geographically, it spans 655 miles. And it’s considered the nation’s most diverse metropolitan area, with at least 145 different languages spoken by residents. 

The Space City is a rich hub of food, culture and commerce — and all those people produce (and use) goods on a daily basis, which are delivered via truck. 

The entire Texas Triangle (Houston, Dallas and San Antonio) is part of the Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) Van Network Lanes: 12 lanes (between 18 cities) where a portion of our dry van fleet is concentrated. 

With a team of drivers based locally and decades of experience, we’ve learned a lot over the years about Houston, and what makes it such an important city. 

Before shipping in or out of Houston, learn more about the city, major industries that dominate the area, how the location impacts trucking costs, seasonal differences and what you can do to ensure uneventful shipments in and out. 

Key Industries That Influence Shipping in Houston

“Houston” was the first word spoken on the moon (Neil Armstrong said “Houston, Tranquility Base here”). So it’s no surprise that aerospace is a large local industry. 

The main industries powering Houston are oil and gas, healthcare, and biomedical research. Major Houston-based manufacturers include ConocoPhillips, Halliburton, and Sysco. 

The city produces an abundance of oil and gas products, medical devices, and even less-expected goods like leather and cardboard. 

14 Fortune 500 companies call the city home, including Hewlett Packard, Occidental Petroleum, and WM (formerly Waste Management). From these headquarters, goods flow to regional hubs and retail facilities across the country. 

Houston’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes it a thriving hub for imports and exports. The Port of Houston, just 20 minutes from the city center, is a major source of retail goods for companies including Walmart/Sams Club and Ikea, as well as liquid bulk products like petroleum. 

It takes a lot of trucks to support these companies and a population of millions. Houston is car-dependent (there are over 25,000 miles of roadway)… and it’s also dependent on dry vans moving goods into, out of, and throughout the city. 

Trucking Routes Around Houston, Texas

The design of Houston depends on hubs and spokes, with several highways circling the city.

  • Interstate 10, Interstate 45, and Interstate 69 (commonly known as U.S. Route 59) cross through the city, creating several routes to access the center of the city or side streets. 
    • I-10 is known as the “Katy highway” from the suburb of Katy through downtown and features up to 26 lanes along this section. 
    • Locals call I-45 “the Gulf Freeway” from Galveston to downtown. A portion of the road known as the Pierce Elevated forms the southern boundary of downtown Houston. 
    • I-69 runs southwest-northeast, where it connects on both ends with US 59. 
  • The 610 Loop (Interstate 610) circles the inner part of downtown known as “The Loop.”

  • Beltway 8/the Sam Houston Parkway is a partially tolled highway that forms the intermediate beltway. 

  • State Highway 99 is the outer ring of the city. Currently, it runs around the east, north and west of the city. When SH-99 is completed, it will be the world’s seventh-largest ring road. 

Houston is a busy, car-heavy city. Semi-trucks share the road with millions of vehicles regularly. Even with highways stretching to 26 lanes, drivers know that a trip to the area likely means sitting in traffic. 

Interstate highways system criss crossing roads

Other Major Trucking Hubs Near Houston

Houston is located in east Texas, less than 100 miles from the Louisiana border. Its proximity to Galveston Bay and the Port of Houston is an important part of its historical growth and another reason it’s so important to the shipping industry. 

  • Depending on the route taken, Dallas is about 250 miles away. A driver can make this drive in one day, however, traffic patterns may make it difficult for same-day deliveries between the two cities. If the driver can make the trip during non-commuter hours, it may be possible for a same-day trip.

  • San Antonio is just over 200 miles away. With expected local traffic, a driver could likely do a same-day pick-up and delivery between the two cities, although it would take the better part of a day.

  • The border town of Laredo is just over 300 miles from Houston along Highway 59. Freight coming in or out of Mexico is likely to travel through Laredo before stopping at the border crossing. Most of these loads will be left at the border and picked up by a Mexican trucking company to carry the freight south of the border. 

Distance is one factor that determines the price of shipping to and from Houston. Other factors, such as the exact origin and destination, as well as the time of day and year, also drive the price. 

How Much Does It Cost to Ship Freight To and From Houston?

A city the size of Houston requires many truckloads of goods to sustain life and industry.

Because of the size of the city and the easy availability of outgoing freight, shipping into Houston tends to cost less than shipping out. 

For example, a standard dry van shipment from Houston to Dallas will cost about 50 percent more than that same load traveling from Dallas to Houston. 

ATS maintains a steady availability of vans around Houston as part of the ATS ATS Van Network Lanes. These dedicated drivers know the area, they are consistently ready to handle scheduled or last-minute shipments, and you have the chance to get to know everyone handling your important freight. 

Pricing for shipping in and out of Houston varies depending on distance, availability of trucks, and other factors such as the time of year. 

What Are the Busiest Shipping Seasons In Houston? 

In the trucking industry, the busiest time of the year is August through October. This is harvest season nationwide, and retailers are stocking up for the holiday season. 

  • Summer is especially busy in Houston with one caveat— it’s hot. If the A/C unit in a truck breaks down, the driver will stop and the load will be delayed until the unit is fixed or a new truck is found.

    During the summer, expect to pay slightly more for shipping in this area, as there is increased competition for carriers. 

  • The trucking industry slows down greatly from January through March, as retailers and consumers take a break after the busy holiday shopping season.

    A city that has warm weather year-round is attractive to drivers during the winter. Drivers are more willing to do outdoor tasks like tarping in Houston than they would be in a colder climate.

    On the rare occasion that Houston gets snow, it’s a major event that shuts down the city. It only happens every few years and it’s well-publicized, but if Houston has winter weather you should prepare for all shipments to stop for several days. 

Price is one reason to choose a transportation company for your loads in and out of Houston. But there are other factors to consider as well. 

ATS Has Capacity in Houston!

A lot of trucking companies serve major cities like Houston. When choosing a carrier, make sure they understand your specific needs and the intricacies of the area (there are a lot of them). It’s equally important for your transportation provider to have a stable infrastructure in this part of the U.S. so they can serve all of your needs (even as they change).

As a city within our Van Network Lanes, ATS has invested significantly in and around Houston, Texas to provide capacity in this area. Learn more about ATS’ dry van shipping services. ATS also offers specialized open-deck, heavy haul, warehousing and freight brokerage services in Houston, check out our service offerings.

Derik Gertken

Written by Derik Gertken

Derik's journey with ATS began in early 2015 when he joined the team as a National Sales Representative. Since that time, Derik's dedication to helping his customers, as well as his co-workers, meet their goals has been unmatched. Today, Derik serves as the Director of Sales for ATS Inc. where he helps ATS' vans sales teams develop partnerships with customers that extend beyond transactional business relationships.

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