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An Introduction to Intermodal Shipping

Intermodal Shipping

Sometimes – a single routed shipment is just not enough. For those situations that require multiple modes of transportation, whether due to needs or economic purposes, many shippers utilize intermodal shipping. Intermodal transportation is the process of using more than one shipping source to move freight that is stored in a container. While there are several ways to move freight across the US, many shippers are beginning to choose intermodal for several reasons.

In the information below, we’ll provide an introduction to intermodal shipping by explaining the facts, comparing it with multimode transportation, and provide a few general benefits for using this mode of transportation.

What is Intermodal

In the supply chain there are several modes of
transportation including trucking, shipping, air, and rail. When a shipper
combines two of these modes to move freight from one location to another, with
commodities stored in a container that does not require transfer to different
containers, it’s known as an intermodal shipment. The most common type of
intermodal shipping in the United States is when a truck picks up a container,
transfers to a railway, with a truck completing the final delivery. Intermodal
shipping is extremely popular in the US, mainly due to our exceptional and
reliable railway network. In fact, each year, intermodal shipping equates to
about 25 million containers moved.

What is Multimodal

While the intermodal process is the movement of freight by two
unique modes, the multimode transport involves more than two modes. The key
difference however is that the freight itself can be transferred to different
containers – but the freight is protected by the carrier from pick-up to final
delivery. Typically, the multimodal carrier – also known as a multimodal
transport operator (MTO) will sub-contract individual mode carriers that
specialize in unique modes to transport commodities from the point of origin to
its final destination. When a shipper chooses a multimode shipment, a single
contract of carriage is established. The intermodal movement requires different
contracts for each carrier.

The Benefits of Using
Intermodal Shipping

It is assumed that intermodal shipping is used based on
limitations of shipping. However, more shippers (especially those with large
volume shipments that can be stored in containers) are beginning to discover
several ancillary benefits to moving freight via two modes of transportation.
Here are a few of the benefits of using intermodal shipping.

Intermodal shipping is an exceptional way to move freight
across North America. If you’re new to large volume shipping or looking for
more efficient modes of transport, a third-party logistics provider like LTX
Solutions can significantly help. Thanks to our recent acquisition by Redwood
Logistics – our combined efforts offers us the flexibility to expand our
services – which now includes intermodal shipping.

If you’re a shipper in any industry looking to save money and improve supply chain movement efficiency, give us a call today!