If You’re Not in a Hurry, Save Money with Intermodal Rail Shipping

August 13, 2019 by Meyer Baron
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Shippers are always looking for the least expensive way to ship freight, and why shouldn’t they? Intermodal is one frequently overlooked shipping mode that deserves a little more attention.

What Is Intermodal Shipping?

When more than one mode of shipping is used, and two or more carriers are involved, that’s intermodal shipping. For FreightCenter customers it usually works this way:

  • The shipment is picked up by a truck
  • The truck goes to the rail yard
  • The truck’s trailer is placed on a rail car
  • When the shipment reaches its destination, the trailer is put on a truck for delivery

Benefits of Intermodal Shipping

There are two benefits of Intermodal Shipping

  1. It usually costs less to ship intermodal than it does to use a truck the whole way.
  2. It’s greener. Because freight trains carry so many containers and trailers, the cost per mile per trailer is much less than on a truck. In fact, a train can move a ton of cargo 400 miles for as little as one gallon of fuel. If your company wants to lessen its carbon footprint, definitely consider intermodal.

Book While Business Is Down

The intermodal sector has been struggling. According to the Association of American Railroads, container and trailer volume were down by 145,245 units (2.4%) in the first five months of 2019. Average weekly volume in May was down 5.9% annually, the fourth consecutive monthly decline.

With intermodal numbers down significantly, now is the right time to give intermodal a try.

When Intermodal Shipping Works Best

Not every shipment can or should be sent intermodal. Consider intermodal when the place of origin and the destination are both major metropolitan areas that are at least 250 miles apart.

The amount of cargo also matters, as it should take up the entire trailer. That means you should be shipping what amounts to a Full Truckload, several Partial Truckload shipments that together take up the whole truck or several LTL shipments. In each case, the place of origin and the destination must be the same.

Also, intermodal requires at least a few days more time than LTL or Truckload because you are using two different modes of shipping and two different carriers. Still, if you know well enough in advance that you are going to ship, intermodal can be a good choice.

Ask the Shipping Experts

To get the full story on intermodal freight shipping and whether it’s right to you, contact a FreightCenter National Account Manager at 800.716.7608.

All aboard!

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