12 Sep

What Is Intermodal Shipping and Why Is It Better?

Intermodal transportation has its origin in 18th century England and predates the railways. Nowadays, intermodal transportation has gone a long way. It used to be so that once your shipping has been transferred, there is no way to track it but due to current technological advancements, intermodal shipping is not only easy and cheaper but also safer.

What is Intermodal Shipping?

Intermodal shipping is when a shipment involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation (e.g., rail, ship, aircraft, and truck), without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The method reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damage and loss, and allows freight to be transported faster.

Intermodal shipping is usually divided into 2 subcategories, domestic intermodal and international intermodal. International shipments are stored in standardized 20 or 40-foot containers and as they usually travel in multiple modes of transportation, the products usually stay inside the container the whole time from warehouse to warehouse. 

What are the benefits of Intermodal Shipping?

1. Cost-Savings

Shippers have budgets and they want to protect it. Intermodal shipping is generally cheaper than its more direct counterparts. Though it depends on the season, intermodal shipping is always at least hundreds of dollars less than a truckload.

2. Sustainability

In this era of globalization, sustainability has been a very huge challenge for logistic companies. Intermodal shipping has been one of the ways that shipping companies can reduce waste and achieve greater energy efficiency.

In the case of the shipping method mentioned above, railways consume up to nine times less energy per tonne kilometer traveled than trucks. On average, trains are 4 times more fuel efficient and can carry more freight at the same time making it more sustainable in longer hauls. Trains also emit 60-75% fewer emissions compared to trucks. Combine these with the long distances between states in North America, you’ll have the most sustainable transportation method when you go with intermodal shipping rather than just relying on container trucks alone.

3. Safety

Long hauls not only fatigue truck drivers but are also generally unsafe compared to freight trains. In the US, around 500,000 truck-related accidents happen per annum. A great majority of these accidents occur due to mechanical difficulties, especially those related to tires or brakes and a major factor in these accidents happening is the load applied by the container on the truck. If you’re shipping products that need to be taken extra care of, intermodal might be the best choice as your shipments are more secure on a freight train especially for longer distances.