What method of transport is safest for your package?

Does the safest way to travel correlate to the safest way to ship a package?    The answer is definitely not.   The three basic shipping methods we looked at are air, boat and road.   According to the Research and Innovative Technology Administration and the Risk Assessment Data Directory, large trucks were involved in 167 accidents per 100 million miles, aircrafts were involved in .38 accidents per 100 million miles and ocean transport had over 500 accidents per 100 million miles travelled.   The ocean statistics needed a lot of extrapolation because reports were in ship years rather than miles traveled.   But if you went strictly by accidents one would conclude that air is the safest way to ship your package.

The above statistics are barely relevant to the probability that your package will arrive in tact.  If we just used accident statistics to predict package damage, then we would come to the conclusion that a package has less than a 1/4 % chance of getting damaged when shipped by truck and a package shipped by air has practically a zero percent chance of damage.   In reality the fate of your package is far more affected by the handling, shifting and vibration that occur by a shipping method.

So what is the true risk of shipping a product?  Unfortunately shipping companies do not publicize the number of packages they damage per year.  But we did find another way to estimate the risk.   While we may not have access to a lot of this data, we certainly believe that insurance companies do.  So by reviewing some on-line insurance rates for common valued items we came up with the following information.

  • Insurance costs for shipping by truck had the lowest rate.
  • Insurance costs for ocean was the highest at about 38% higher than truck
  • Insurance costs for air shipment was about 13% higher than truck.

The graph below illustrates the dynamics between accidents and shipping damage.  The data is normalized so that road had the value of 1.  So the airplane and boat lines are relative to road.


So based on insurance costs, we would conclude that trucking gives you the best chance of shipping a product damage free.  Of course packaging method can greatly reduce the risk of damage for any method of shipping.