The largest city in North Carolina, Charlotte is a buzzing hive of activity (it’s no wonder the Hornets are their NBA team).
In 2023, Zillow listed Charlotte as the “Hottest Housing Market” in the country. And it makes sense — 53 percent of the U.S. population lives within a 650-mile radius of the city.
With all those people living and working in and around Charlotte, you’d expect there to be plenty of trucking activity. And you’d be right.
Charlotte is within one of the Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) Van Network Lanes: 12 lanes (between 18 cities) where a portion of our dry van fleet is concentrated. We have a lot of drivers based in the Charlotte area who run shipments to and from it frequently. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about the unique aspects of shipping in and out of Charlotte.
Before you plan your next truckload of freight into or out of the Queen City, learn more about Charlotte, its place in the transportation industry, major industries that dominate shipping in the area, how the location impacts shipping costs, and what you can do to ensure your shipments travel smoothly.
Key Industries That Influence Shipping in Charlotte
Charlotte is home to over 3,000 manufacturing companies, many producing wood products like paper and pulp. Other manufacturers in the area serve the aviation, aerospace and defense industries.
There are also 250 auto manufacturing facilities in Charlotte, making everything from automotive filters to tires to seating components. Car enthusiasts will find lots to love in Charlotte — it’s also home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and multiple NASCAR teams are headquartered there.
Other companies that have a headquarters or a large presence in Charlotte include Nucor, Duke Energy, SPX, Compass Group and Sealed Air Corp. Many of these manufacturers send and receive multiple truckloads of product on a daily basis.
So many companies shipping out of the city means that trucks and drivers will be eager to get to Charlotte. Dry vans especially will be happy to move to or near Charlotte, where outbound loads are plentiful and they are likely to quickly find their next load.
While these companies drive Charlotte's economy, the smooth flow of goods through the city relies heavily on a well-structured transportation system.
Trucking Routes Around Charlotte, NC
Charlotte is easily accessible by truck. Main transit routes include I-277, I-77, I-85 and I-485.
- A portion of I-277 known as the John Belk Freeway (named after a former mayor), loops around uptown Charlotte.
- Vehicles entering Charlotte on I-77 can stay on the highway to drive through the city, or travel on the I-485 beltway, a 66-mile stretch that circles the city.
- I-85 doesn’t go directly through Charlotte, but dry vans and vehicles can easily access the city using the exit for I-77.
No matter where you drive in Charlotte, you’ll notice plenty of trees — making it a popular destination for checking out fall colors.
Leaf peepers and commuters going in and out of the city can occasionally cause traffic jams. Drivers, especially drivers very familiar with the area, will use known traffic patterns to create a drive plan for the day that depends on avoiding road congestion. If possible, work with your transportation provider to schedule pick-up and delivery times that help the driver stay moving — not stuck in traffic.
No matter the movement of traffic, trucks are always headed to or from their next shipment. Understanding the cities near Charlotte helps the broker or carrier understand the best loads to accept to get the most out of every haul.
Other Major Trucking Hubs Near Charlotte
Charlotte is strategically placed along the Eastern Seaboard near several other major shipping cities.
- Shipping to or from Charlotte to Columbus, Ohio, is 425 miles on I-77 north. A driver might be able to make this trip in one day.
- Shipping to or from Charlotte to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is 523 miles on I-95 North. Depending on the timing of pick-up and delivery, as well as the government-mandated Hours of Service for the driver, this distance may mean an overnight stay. There are multiple truck stops and rest areas where a driver can spend their mandatory rest periods.
Shipping costs are determined, in part, by the distance shipped. However, Charlotte, like all cities, has its own quirks when it comes to the cost of shipping.
How Much Does It Cost to Ship Freight To and From Charlotte?
Charlotte’s manufacturing economy means freight ships out of the city on a daily basis. Trucks coming into the city will be competitively priced, as drivers want to return to major shipping cities where they are likely to find their next load right away.
One of the main factors impacting the cost of outgoing freight from Charlotte is the destination. More popular destinations like Columbus will be at a lower price than areas with less outgoing freight.
As part of an ATS Van Network Lane, ATS is dedicated to having drivers who are based in Charlotte. For customers, this means more consistent pricing and availability of drivers. You also have the chance to get to know the people involved in your shipments, from the driver to the customer service rep who handles pricing.
In the trucking industry, pricing is often driven by competition. This can mean pricing varies throughout the year, depending on how many loads are available for each driver.
What Are the Busiest Shipping Seasons In Charlotte?
Shipping to and from Charlotte, North Carolina, follows the typical rise and fall throughout the shipping industry.
- The busiest time of year is August through October. This is peak harvest season, and the season when retail stores are getting ready for the busy holidays.
During this time of year, expect to pay slightly more to ship to and from Charlotte, as there is more competition for trucks during this time.
- January through March is the slowest season in the industry. Freight volume is recovering after the busy holidays.
In many parts of the country, weather delays are common this time of year. While Charlotte has a temperate climate year-round, it’s important to keep an eye on other parts of the country as shipments may be delayed based on weather along their route.
The peaks and valleys of the transportation industry and the competition for freight are two of the factors that influence the cost of shipping. But of course, the price depends on multiple factors.
How to Find a Trucking Company in Charlotte
Most major cities, including Charlotte, are served by thousands of trucking companies. Before committing to a shipping partner, make sure they understand the Charlotte area as well as your specific needs.
The ATS Van Network Lanes is a web of interlinked cities with trucks available in the area on a daily basis. Charlotte is one of these cities.
To learn more about the shipping industry in general, subscribe to our Learning Hub. We publish information several times per week that will help you find the trucking company that’s best for you. If you’d like to ask questions in person, contact the ATS team for a personal consultation.