Intermodal rail has been the fastest growing segment of the transportation supply chain in the United States over the past 25 years. Intermodal rail volume includes domestic shipments as well as imports and exports, supporting international trade.
There are many different types of freight but shippers appreciate the benefits of intermodal rail shipping for its cost savings, speed of shipment, and ease of shipment since freight is moved in containers that can be hauled by truck, on a train railcar, or lifted onto a ship for maritime transport.
What is intermodal rail shipping?
Intermodal rail shipping is an integrated supply chain that combines two or more forms of transportation to move goods via shipping containers and truck trailers. Intermodal transportation most commonly combines truck, rail, and sea.
The benefits of intermodal rail shipping are witnessed by the growth in using containers for intermodal shipping from 47% of intermodal volume in 1990 all the way up to 92% in 2019.
Intermodal allows railroads to provide their customers with cost-effective transportation for almost anything that can be loaded into a truck or a container.
The Top 7 Benefits of Intermodal Rail Shipping
Intermodal rail shipping is cost-effective
Cost is one of the biggest benefits of intermodal rail shipping versus relying on truck transport alone. In fact, average rail rates have fallen 44% since 1981!
One of the reasons for the cost-effectiveness of intermodal rail is that shipping containers can be “double stacked.” This allows an engine to move even more containers without adding to the length of the train. It also means that shippers can move more freight together at one time.
As more shippers leverage the benefits of intermodal rail shipping, costs will remain competitive compared to truck FTL shipping. The general public also benefits from the reduced cost of moving the goods to market.
Intermodal rail lowers fuel costs
Rail shipping is extremely fuel efficient compared to truck shipping alone. Using rail, it only takes one gallon of fuel to move a ton of freight 400 miles!
Rising fuel costs and the threats of less access to diesel fuel for truck transport adds to the attractiveness of intermodal rail shipping.
Intermodal rail is fast and efficient
Another benefit of intermodal rail shipping is that it can be up to four times more efficient than trucking alone for long distances and heavy freight. A single train can transport an amount of freight equaling that of 280 trucks!
Moving large amounts of freight via rail helps shippers avoid the traffic and congestion that can cause costly delays when shipping by truck. Using rail, freight can be transported long distances rapidly, saving shippers time and money.
Increases in track capacity and advanced signaling systems allows for more trains as well as faster trains. Accommodations for doublestack trains have been made to bridges and tunnels and inland intermodal terminals and expanded ports use advanced technologies that can transfer containers to and from trucks in mere minutes.
Intermodal rail is eco-friendly
Intermodal rail is more environmentally sustainable than truck transport. Requiring less fuel than truck transportation alone, rail reduces costs for the shipper and supports any green initiatives they may have to reduce their carbon footprint.
Intermodal rail shipping helps consumers too. By shipping more freight via rail versus truck, highway congestion and harmful emissions are reduced.
Intermodal rail is great for international shipments
For goods that are being imported or exported, the ability to place them in a single container that transports them from the beginning of their journey all the way to their final destination provides both security and ease of transport for international shippers.
Using its vast network, intermodal rail shipping is the fastest path to transport large amounts of freight between both coasts and routes are conveniently placed to accommodate major hubs and seaports.
Intermodal rail is safe
Transport via rail is generally safer than via other methods. Containers ensure that freight does not have to be handled en route unlike with trucking alone, where drivers also have to contend with congestion, road maintenance and driver fatigue.
Improved security and safety includes railroad police who constantly monitor intermodal transportation and, to minimize misplacing freight, GPS trackers are placed on all rail cars.
Cargo and freight are more secure when they are on a non-stop journey so these benefits of intermodal shipping make rail a much safer way to transport freight compared to trucking alone.
You can move almost anything using intermodal rail
Intermodal rail is perfect for moving bulk commodities at a lower cost and can be used to ship almost anything including agricultural products like food and fertilizers, automobiles and parts, chemicals, construction equipment and supplies, consumer goods, and fuel.
For shippers that have large amounts of freight, considering intermodal rail in their transportation plan will help them save time and money.
Intermodal freight transportation is growing
After the modern shipping container was designed in the 1950s, freight railroads invested heavily in building a world-class intermodal rail network.
Within North America, there are 11 intermodal rail networks linking together the United States, Canada and Mexico. The largest U.S. hubs are Chicago, which accounts for more than one-half of intermodal train volume, and Los Angeles which includes the busiest port in the country.
Today, freight railroads move nearly 61 tons of freight per American each year, along with trucks and maritime shippers. Much of this is via intermodal rail which can carry all sorts of freight such as fruit, fertilizer, fuel, vehicles, lumber and building supplies, retail goods, clothing, sporting goods and home appliances.
On Track Intermodal Rail Shipping & Logistics
On Track Freight Systems are experts in intermodal rail shipping and logistics. We have the experience to arrange the transportation of your goods via rail in the most cost effective and efficient manner.
Contact the On Track Freight Systems team of brokers today to get your freight On Track with our intermodal solutions.
Contact On Track today to request your free rail shipping quote.