Posted by PLS Logistics on July 7, 2015 at 9:00 AM


For those who have shipments moving more than 750 miles, shipping by truck and train or ship, rather than just over-the- road (OTR), can add value to the overall supply chain and drive significant savings in transportation spend.  The top 3 reasons for shippers to use intermodal transportation are lower costs, consistent capacity and quality service. 

Lower Costs 

Companies can reduce transportation spend by moving freight in intermodal containers.  Using truck and rail provides major savings on fuel.  Trains use much less diesel than trucks, in fact, a train can move one ton of freight nearly 450 miles on one gallon of fuel.  Fuel can become a huge expense for long-haul trucking, but trains help ease the impact.  Not to mention, companies taking initiative to reduce their carbon footprint can use trains as a more environmentally-friendly approach to transportation. 

Another money saving feature of intermodal is the ability to ship in containers.  In containers, no individual handling is needed.  This reduces the transportation cost because very little effort is required to move a shipment from a truck to a train or a ship or any other combination.  Containers will fit easily into any mode and can be switched quickly, which makes carriers more efficient.

Consistent Capacity

Intermodal transportation, especially truck and rail, provides reliable capacity.  There is less competition to secure freight for intermodal transport, which further lowers cost, but more importantly, offers capacity when and where it’s needed. 

With the driver shortage and increased shipping activity, intermodal transport is increasingly appealing to shippers.  Rather than paying high rates to guarantee capacity, or bending over backwards to accommodate carriers, companies can ship via intermodal any time, at a reasonable price.  This is a good way to overcome current problems in the trucking industry, where carriers are cranking up prices and slowing down service.

Quality Service

Possibly the biggest benefit of using intermodal transportation is the quality of service.  Intermodal is more resourceful than other modes.  Shippers have discovered that intermodal transportation is faster than OTR, as intermodal providers are increase train speed and reduce time for cars in the yard. 

Intermodal transportation can also be safer and more secure for cargo.  Obviously, trains are on a fixed track and are less likely to be in an accident while carrying hazardous or highly combustible freight.  This means fewer restrictions on loading, unloading, and carrying dangerous materials, which speeds up the shipping process.  On a train, when containers drop down into the well, the doors cannot open, and when they’re double-stacked, the top container is 15 feet off the ground, making it difficult to reach.  And, cars are spending less time in the yard, which keeps freight moving. 

Intermodal transportation is convenient, too.  Not only is capacity available when it is needed, and shippers find a 10 to 30 percent over trucking, but technological advances in the industry have made shipping intermodal just as efficient and reliable as shipping OTR.  Containers now have track and trace capabilities.  Shippers are no longer given a 3-day span for delivery time and kept in the dark hoping their shipment made it.  Visibility into shipment status is the same as shipping OTR, making intermodal service selection easier and mode comparison more accurate. 

Intermodal transport is becoming popular very quickly.  A number of inefficiencies in OTR shipping are pushing shippers to find other ways to move their products.  Intermodal provides a promising alternative. 

Topics: 3PL, Intermodal Freight, Shippers, Intermodal Transportation, Transportation Spend

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