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Five reasons Intermodal may be right for your shipping needs...

Intermodal shipping is becoming more and more common in the transportation industry, especially as shippers look to consolidate their costs, control fluctuating rates, increase efficiency, and simplify their shipping operations. In this article, we'll explore how intermodal shipping can make it easier, more predictable, and cheaper for shippers to get their goods to their final destination. 

What is Intermodal Shipping? 

In the simplest of terms, intermodal shipping refers to equipment that can move ‘between modes’; most commonly via vessel, truck or rail, inside shipping containers. Anytime freight is moved over two different types of transport you are using intermodal shipping, but this article will address what’s referred to as Door-to-Door Intermodal, here in the U.S - the combination of truck and rail.

Benefits of Intermodal Shipping

Intermodal shipping offers many benefits to shippers which we will explore in this list of five reasons intermodal shipping over rail might be right for your business:

1. Cost-Effective Shipments

In many instances, intermodal shipping offers substantial cost savings in lanes greater than 700 miles, when compared with the cost to move the same load over-the-road (OTR). Because intermodal containers can often be double stacked, the railroad’s operating costs are subsidized across multiple shippers or BCO’s (Beneficial Cargo Owners) to keep the cost to serve relatively consistent.

This simplified shipping system also requires less maintenance, less upkeep, less wages, and less operating costs per tonne per mile than truckloads over the road. In short, intermodal shipping is a more easily scaled and centralized model compared to OTR, offering savings up to 60% in select lanes. When you consider the highly inflationary market impacting raw material and production costs,   reducing transportation spend is critical to the long term success of your business. Intermodal offers an economy of scale for the bulk of the journey and only relies on bespoke shipping for first and final-mile deliveries. 

2. Flexible Solutions

Whether you’re looking to capitalize on dynamic spot rating based on network imbalances, or lock in static long-term pricing, Intermodal shipping can be tailored to the needs of your supply chain.
Additionally, most Intermodal carriers have the ability to load / unload live or via ‘Drop & Hook’ - which simply means an empty container is dropped at the origin to be loaded at the shipper’s convenience, and then taken to the rail terminal by the designated carrier. No shipping lane is immune from delays. But while OTR carriers are subject to traffic, road conditions, fuel costs, labor supply, and other issues, those problems are all less prevalent and impactful on rail systems. 

3. Better Visibility 

Keeping an eye on shipments and making sure you have accurate ETAs and locations for cargo has long been a pain point in the logistics industry. With recent advancements in GPS technology, Intermodal containers are now easily tracked with multiple points of reference. 

Not only is it easier to keep an eye on intermodal shipments, but the freight industry is using data-driven tools that help predict timelines and ETAs for shipments. This will only increase the visibility you have as your cargo makes its way to your customers quickly, safely, and efficiently. 

4. Environmentally friendly

Intermodal shipping takes advantage of existing large-scale infrastructure for more efficient operations. In a recent submission to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) testified that: 

"A typical intermodal train is equivalent to 280 truckloads and can move one ton of freight nearly 500 miles on a gallon of fuel. Annually, the movement of goods through intermodal transportation conserves 2.3 billion gallons of fuel, results in 100,000 fewer heavy trucks on highways, and eliminates 25 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions." 

This means that your shipments have a smaller carbon footprint, and use fewer resources than traditional road freight. This also makes costs more stable and offers you a simpler, more predictable way to calculate freight because the sunk costs of rail freight are less volatile than road costs. 

5. Security

Once the freight is securely loaded via a method known as ‘blocking and bracing’, intermodal containers are sealed with tamper-proof technology, mitigating the risk of theft while in transit.  Blocking and Bracing is necessary to ensure cargo is evenly distributed throughout the container and doesn’t shift while in transit. Taking the extra time to create this load plan, prevents cargo damage while the train is in perpetual motion, and arrives safely to its final destination.  

Across Class 1 railroads, loss and damage has dropped by 75% since 1995 and 99.9% of all shipments arrive damage free.  

Bonus: It's available in ShipperGuide!

ShipperGuide now makes it easier than ever to move your cargo intermodally, due to our drayage and rail offerings which allows you to link loads.

Drayage is the process of moving a container from one mode of shipment to the next, in this case from port to rail. Now you can use ShipperGuide to move your container to the rail location, then set up the load to move via rail, and then we will pick up the load once it has reached its final rail destination.

This demo video below shows how to move your intermodal shipment via ShipperGuide.👇


Intermodal shipping is just one of the ways you can use ShipperGuide to streamline your shipment process. ShipperGuide can help you get your products to your customers or market in less time, for less money. ShipperGuide gives you one simple, centralized platform with a range of tools to help you find efficiencies and consolidate your costs, making it easier than ever to ship your cargo no matter where you need it to go. 

If you're ready for an easier and more efficient way of shipping your cargo, reach out for a demo of ShipperGuide today. 

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