Road Freight: How Routes and Dates are Determined For Fine Art Shuttles

Road Freight is the most common method of transporting goods within a single country or in between two land-locked countries. ARTA has an expansive network of shipping partners in both the U.S. and Europe that operate Fine Art Shuttles (FAS), which are generally the safest and most cost-effective method for shipping fine art or similar high-end goods.

What defines a Fine Art Shuttle?

  • Climate Controlled: All objects are kept between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Dual Driver: Two art technicians operate the vehicle and handle all on and off loading.
  • Air Ride: Air suspension system that absorbs shock and reduces vibration during transit.
  • White Glove Delivery: Full range of art handling services offered upon request and availability (includes de-install, packing, unpacking, install, crating, etc).
  • GPS Tracking: A majority of shuttle trucks are equipped with GPS monitoring.


In order to offer these high-end/high-touch services at a discounted rate, fine art companies run shuttles on routine schedules. Depending on the shipping company’s size and location(s) these shuttles can run weekly or monthly, regionally or nationally.

In the U.S. we see two types of shuttles: regional and national.

Regional Shuttles

Regional shuttles only pass through a certain area of the country. They typically originate from their warehouse and return within 1 week. For example, an East Coast route may run Boston to Miami; a West Coast shuttle may run LA to SF. Regional shuttles are operated by ARTA shipping partners such as Richard Wright, Dixon Art Services and LA Packing & Crating.

National shuttles

Companies that run national shuttles may have one or multiple warehouses. In the case that a company operating national shuttles has all trucks depart from a single warehouse, they will typically collect an item on a regional shuttle (i.e. their Northeast shuttle), return it to the warehouse for cross-docking, and then move the item to the appropriate regional shuttle for delivery (i.e. their Midwest shuttle). This allows an item to go from Boston to Chicago in two weeks without a direct route. Partners in the ARTA network that operate as such include ANR Transport, Artemis, Art Handlers LTD. and Displays.

For larger Fine Art Shipping companies with multiple warehouses, shuttles typically run between major hubs (New York, Los Angeles, Miami), with the piece eventually being delivered via local trucks. Gander & White, Atelier 4 and AirSea Packing are ARTA partners that operate in this capacity.

Third party agents

To keep their shuttles running as efficiently as possible, national FAS often contract out to local FAS companies who can offer increased coverage, time-sensitive deliveries and white glove services.

By delivering to a local agent, FAS can have faster loading and off-loading (i.e. via dock vs. street parking or residential access) and reduce the time spent on site to pack or install.

Most FAS charge an off-route fee for locations that they would not normally pass through.  This fee accounts for the added drive time and lost opportunity in more central locations. By sourcing a local agent who does service these hard to reach areas, shuttle costs can stay low.

ARTA often sources these agents directly, so you will see the local company as a separate line on your quote. If an ARTA partner has an exclusive or existing agent in a particular city, that partner might include the agent charges in their total shipping quote.

Some shuttles book up 1-2 weeks in advance of departure. This could be because the shuttle has reached maximum cubic volume, or because the shuttle has run out of time for additional stops. If local agents can collect, consolidate and deliver artworks to a single location, this would allow for higher percentage of volume to be filled, thus lowering rates.

Collection and delivery windows

Although shuttles follow a general route and timeline, every stop booked along their route impacts the overall route timeline. Thus, most shuttles are unable to confirm or guarantee arrival at a location more than 24-48 hours in advance.

Most ARTA partners offer 2-5 day collection and delivery windows on their quotes. These dates indicated anticipated arrival times, but may fluctuate. Unless this shipping partner has a local facility in the collection or delivery city, the exact time of arrival will not be provided until the schedule is finalized.

ARTA works to maintain expectations with our users based on the Shipping Partners’s quoted windows, but as stops are often added and cancelled on a shuttle route unexpectedly, the dates are always subject to change.

The only way to guarantee a very specific collection and delivery date would be by booking an Exclusive Use truck. ARTA offers this service upon request, though it is significantly more costly.

If you receive a quote that denotes Collection or Delivery BY [date] or AFTER [date], this likely means the fine art shipping company’s local trucks will be collecting or delivering. These local trucks typically collect a week in advance of the regional shuttle’s departure by date and deliver within a week after the regional shuttle’s arrival date.

What if I have limited flexibility for my collection or delivery dates?

This is where ARTA can help! If you need to know the arrival window more than 24 hours in advance, please note this under “Additional Notes” on your ARTA request. Restricted hours of operation or preferred days cannot always be accommodated after booking, though ARTA can typically accommodate these requests if alerted in the initial request submission.

Does road freight operate differently in Europe?

European companies operate similarly to their U.S. counterparts. The main point of difference pertains to the customs arrangements for shipping works within the EU.

If a work has been permanently imported into an EU member state, and all duties & taxes (D&Ts) have been paid within that country, then that work is considered in “Free Circulation” and can travel freely between EU states without incurring further D&Ts.

However, if a work is temporarily imported into one EU member state under TA or Bond, then that work cannot move freely across borders. In order to facilitate these intra-EU road freight shipments, transit documents need to be issued (T1, T2 Docs) which tell customs officers that D&Ts are temporarily suspended for this good whilst it is transit. Inevitably, this will increase the costs for shipments.

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