Intermodal transportation is simply the inclusion of two or more modes of transportation when a shipment container with freight transports from the shipper to the consignee. Each year, roughly 25 million containers are moved with two or more modes, with no handling of the actual freight being shipped.
The most common way goods are shipped via intermodal transportation is via truck to rail transport, and then back on a truck to its final destination. But depending on the cargo, transport can include:
- Container ships
- Land Bridges
- Planes (especially for perishable goods)
Containers make transport much easier and safer, especially since the freight itself isn’t handled individually.
The types of shipments that are best for intermodal transport in California are longer haul that are moving within 300 miles of a major metropolitan area. Short-term trucking, or “drayage,” is a part of a longer-distance shipment of freight, and is usually provided by companies that do nothing else.
How Intermodal Transportation Benefits You
Intermodal transportation in California is better for the environment and can help your company reduce its carbon footprint. You might not consider these factors when working with a 3PL company in California, but intermodal offers many significant advantages.
- Cost reduction—because trains use significantly less fuel than a truck, they can move a full ton of freight nearly 450 miles on one gallon of diesel, leading to lower fuel costs than using a truck for the entire trip.
- Containers reduce costs—because containers fit neatly onto nearly any mode of transport, they’re easier to move from one to another without individual handling and make transport more efficient.
- Reliable capacity—because the driver shortage increasingly strains that part of the supply chain, employing multiple methods of transport allows a company to ship with multiple methods anytime at a more affordable cost.
- Better quality of service—because shippers have come to realize that shipping intermodal can be faster than over-the-road transport, these vendors are increasing the speed of their trains and decreasing the time that their cars are sitting idle in the yard.
- Convenience—intermodal has many of the same technological advances as trucking, including container tracking and shipment status visibility. It’s also as efficient as reliable as OTR, with as much as 30% additional capacity.
- Safety considerations—trains on a fixed track are much less likely to be in an accident, especially with combustible and/or hazardous freight. Rail also has less restriction on things like loading and unloading these types of freight so the shipping is faster. Moving cars mean less sitting around and more traveling freight.
Multiple inefficiencies in OTR transport make intermodal a much better alternative to shipping goods from Point A to Point B.
Intermodal vs. Multimodal
These methods are the same type of transport with one primary difference: with intermodal shipping, each mode of transport has its own separate contract with each individual carrier. Multimodal shipping has a single contract and bill of lading for two or more forms of transportation. This means that a single carrier is responsible for the entire shipment from start to finish, even though multiple carriers are involved.
The advantage of multimodal shipping is that it cuts down on paperwork and communications, including tracking of the shipments. It also usually means that there is a shorter transport time due to more efficient routing.
3PL Worldwide For Intermodal Transportation
Because we work with a wide range of transport vendors, we understand intermodal and are happy to implement it for you.
Based in Southern California, we’re ready to help with as little or as much of your company’s supply chain. Contact us today at (877) 444-0002 or use our online contact form.