What Is Intermodal Shipping & How Can It Lead to Cost Savings?

If you ship cargo over longer distances and are not familiar with intermodal shipping, you may not be using the most efficient, cost-saving methods. At On Track Freight Systems, we offer a range of different transportation and logistics services designed to help you save time, save money, and increase efficiency. 

We not only specialize in moving your freight from Point A to Point B — we strive to do so in the most efficient, cost-saving manner. Let’s take a closer look at intermodal shipping as well as how On Track Freight Systems can help. 

What Is Intermodal Shipping?

Every year, an estimated 25 million containers of freight are transported via rail intermodal services. In general, intermodal shipping is the process of using two different modes of transportation. Most commonly, these two modes are rail and trucking. 

Intermodal shipping is a highly-efficient and effective mode of transportation when you need to ship cargo over extended distances. For example, if you have shipments that consistently travel 750+ miles, exploring the feasibility of intermodal shipping could open the door to immense savings. 

How Does Intermodal Shipping Work? 

To put it simply, intermodal shipping combines trucks and railways to complete a single shipment. While intermodal shipping may take on different forms, here is the most basic process: 

  1. Your products or cargo is loaded in a container and onto a truck chassis. 
  2. The truck will haul the container to the intermodal loading rap, which is typically a short distance. The movement of the truck to the ramp is commonly called “drayage.”
  3. Once at the intermodal ramp, the container is lifted from the truck’s chassis and placed on a well car or a flatcar. It will reside here throughout the train ride.
  4. After the container arrives at the destination intermodal ramp, it’s transferred back to a truck for it to be delivered to a store, warehouse, or distribution center. 

What Are the Benefits of Intermodal Shipping? 

Intermodal shipping is an extremely popular method of moving cargo because of a host of enticing benefits. It’s a possibility for virtually any shipper. Without any requirements to have tracks at the origin-destination or origin of the shipment, it’s a highly accessible method of shipping. 

With intermodal, trucks will handle the last and first mile of shipment, while rail manages the portion in between. Some of the most common benefits of intermodal shipping are listed below:

An Increase In Capacity

In cases where less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping is not cost-effective or the over the road truckload is too expensive, intermodal shipping is an alternative option to keep your freight together, on schedule and at a moderate cost. 

Reduction In Handling

Once freight is loaded into a shipping container or trailer, it stays there until the delivery is completed. Avoiding extra handling prevents potential damage to products and sensitive freight from being dealt with too often.

Provides Pricing Consistency

Since most of the journey of an intermodal shipment is on a railway, its economic benefits are seen in the final cost. Although demand and seasons can sway overall shipping prices in general, rail deliveries tend to have pricing that is easier to predict and more affordable compared to OTR transportation. The more stable rates are due to the high rail capacity of trains and the fact they are cheaper to fuel, which means businesses who use intermodal can enjoy year-round savings.

More Environmentally Friendly

A train can transport one ton of freight an average of 470 miles per gallon of fuel — making it highly efficient. This means companies that are looking to establish a greener supply chain can incorporate this method of shipping to help them achieve a lower economic footprint.

Why Partner with On Track Freight Systems for Intermodal Shipping? 

At On Track Freight Systems, we can organize the transportation of your goods via rail in the most cost-effective and efficient manner. Most importantly, we’ll be with you every step along the way, and you can be as hands-on or as hands-off as you choose to be. Some of the key reasons companies partner with On Track for intermodal shipping include:

  • Cost. Shipping via intermodal rail can lead to cost savings compared to OTR trucking solutions. 
  • Flexibility and versatility. Thanks to the robust railroad network in the U.S., you can easily ship cargo from the Atlantic to the Pacific and anywhere in between. 
  • Lowered fuel costs. Shipping over the railway can be more than twice as fuel-efficient as shipping by truck alone. Railroads boast the ability to move cargo over 400 miles on one gallon of fuel. 
  • A more fuel-efficient, green solution. Because rail shipping requires less fuel, intermodal shipping can lower costs and help advance any green initiatives your organization may have. 
  • Improved security and safety. With rail, most of the journey will be non-stop, which opens the door to increased security and safer travels.

Contact On Track Freight Systems for Nationwide Intermodal Shipping

Looking to learn more about the benefits of intermodal shipping? Contact On Track Freight Systems today for a free quote.