Remote Market Distribution – Brick and Mortar vs. Truck-Based Hub-and-Spoke

Remote Market Distribution – Brick and Mortar vs. Truck-Based Hub-and-Spoke

Regional brick-and-mortar warehouses are often assumed to be the norm for a successful distribution operation. However, Warehouse on Wheels, a truck-based, hub-and-spoke distribution system is growing in popularity. In this article we compare them to each other.


Remote warehousing is an expensive undertaking driven by rent, utilities, labor, insurance, maintenance, and taxes - along with costs associated with storing, handling, and tracking inventory.

Warehouse on Wheels eliminates the need for brick-and-mortar warehousing at the regional market to make distribution less expensive. Costs are reduced to purchasing Demountable equipment to upfit trucks and trailers and renting a parking lot large enough for swapping bodies. Many companies use one of their retail store’s parking lots to reduce expenses even further. Since goods travel from the distribution center direct to delivery in a locked truck body there are fewer product touches which reduces costly damage and loss.


Regional warehouses offer more storage capacity near delivery routes but lack flexibility. Warehouse on Wheels offers unparalleled flexibility. Its container-style approach uses semi-trailers to deliver pre-loaded truck bodies to a parking lot near routes and transfers them to final mile vehicles for delivery. There’s no physical warehouse required. The system is truck-based and can be quickly and simply deployed in a new location if required. It also scales by adding or subtracting vehicles and truck bodies to adapt to changing customer demand.

Customer Experience:

In the age of e-commerce and on-demand-delivery customer experience is more important than ever. Deliveries from traditional warehouses often take longer to arrive because goods need to be picked or mixed and loaded at the regional warehouse. Delivery teams are often not crisp when they arrive because they’ve made a long drive to get to the delivery route.  

Warehouse on Wheels streamlines the entire process for quicker deliveries. Truck bodies are pre-loaded in route order at the distribution center and line-hauled to the regional market where delivery teams running straight-trucks pick-up the body pre-loaded for their route. Since delivery drivers are stationed near their delivery routes, they’re fresh and ready to make a quality delivery. Hours-of-service (HOS) compliance is simplified, and the final mile can be accomplished by less expensive non-CDL drivers. This system is how many furniture retailers offer same day delivery in remote markets.


Traditional warehousing can be challenging in densely populated areas that have limited space, high land costs, and traffic congestion. Warehouse on Wheels overcomes these constraints because it relies on transfer lots and yards that are easy to source and affordable, and often right outside of hard to access urban areas. Tractor-trailers can run the stem from the rural distribution center to the urban transfer lot at non-peak traffic times to reduce windshield time. Straight trucks are much more maneuverable than tractor-trailers or PUPs for the final mile and delivery in tight city and suburban locations. Maneuverability in congested markets creates new possibilities to access urban customers.


To sum up our comparison, cross docks and regional warehouses are often still thought of as the backbone for delivery in remote markets. And for many industries they are a viable solution. But, over the last two decades alternatives like Warehouse on Wheels have captured major market share and are widely used in furniture, snack food, retail, and wine and spirits distribution. This truck-based hub-and-spoke distribution model offers flexibility, lower ownership and operating costs, superior customer experience, and access to urban areas. While brick-and-mortar warehouses have been the norm, businesses should consider alternate models to find the approach best fitting their core values.

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