Global shipping has evolved over the years. The biggest change has been the advent of containerization, which has simplified, safer, and sped up shipments. The intermodal containers themselves are essentially steel boxes that fit easily into many types of shipping vehicles. They contain everything a shipping company needs to get their products to their final destination; everything from the raw materials to the finished goods.
While containers are just one part of the large shipping system, container carriers are integral to any ship cargo business. These are vessels and truck lines used by businesses and individuals alike to move their goods, and in some cases, move entire factories across the world. Over time, they’ve birthed what is known as intermodal shipping.
With this form of shipment in view, an understanding of the entire system becomes necessary to stay competitive in the industry. This guide sheds light on this shipping, including benefits, costs, and how to get started.
What is Intermodal Shipping?
To better understand what this term means, it is essential to break it down: Intermodal and shipping. The former means “in-between modes”, which can be two or more means. The latter talks about the form of moving cargo. So, in essence, intermodal shipping refers to the transportation of cargo from one point to another, using two or more transportation means.
Consider, for example, a shoe company that intends to ship500, 000 pairs of shoes from its production facility to its warehouse in one of its international branches overseas. The first mode of transport from its facility to a shipping carrier point of pickup or harbour could be several trucks. Once the products arrive at the pick-up point, a ship can transport them over the ocean to the next point of delivery.
Upon arrival in the country of destination, the other company branch can transport them to the warehouse, which is the final destination. This is how intermodal shipping works. In this form of shipping, the goods do not have to be offloaded, which makes it unique, safer, and more convenient. It’s the same standardized shipping container from pickup to delivery.
As far as global supply chains and logistics are concerned, intermodal transportation today dominates the shipping industry. Many container-shipping companies consider it their go-to shipment method to save cost and improve delivery.
Benefits of Intermodal Transport Container Carriers
It’s not all about cost, though. It is important to know why shipping companies use intermodal containers. Here are answers to that question.
- Increased safety and Security
- Easy monitoring
- Reduced accidents and traffic congestion
- Lower cost alternative to Truckload
There is no doubt that intermodal shipping is more efficient than some options, like trucking or air freight. A train can transport as much freight as 300 trucks and travel nearly 500 miles on a single tank of fuel. Moreover, trucks spend hours trying to reach the closest shipping terminals to offload, which means more time and environmental impact.
Shipping goods by train over long distances is safer than doing so by truck since trains do not stop or encounter obstacles while in transit. In contrast, there have been reports of truckers being mugged during shipments. Trains have short dray intervals (when they move on tracks over the road), which means fewer contacts with other vehicles and pedestrians.
Intermodal shipping allows for better monitoring and control of cargo. Shipping carriers can track a freight container from pickup to drop-off, and also detect any issues at any time. That’s not to say that this isn’t possible with trucking. But then, intermodal cargo shipping follows a more well-defined schedule than some of its counterparts, which makes it easier for logistics companies to handle transit times and keep a check on freight effectively.
Reduced Accidents and Traffic Congestions
The number of trucking incidents in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent years, increasing the risk of injuries to motorists and pedestrians. The industry reports about 500,000 related accidents each year, with 1% resulting in fatalities. This means that on average, 1,369 truck accidents occur each day, with most of them coming from interstate highways.
Accidents of this nature can result in the loss of lives, valuable cargo and property, damaging lawsuits, and other consequences that can cripple a business. For this reason, more logistics companies are choosing intermodal transport to reduce accidents, noise, and pollution. It also reduces traffic congestion. There is less need to share highways and streets with other commuters, which means fewer trucks on the road.
Lower Cost Alternative to Truckload
The low cost of freight through rail transportation is the driving force behind why more companies are choosing to go intermodal. Besides, what will take hundreds of trucks to transport, costing more in shipping fees and fuel consumption, will only require one train and a single ride to ship the same number of freight containers. This factor makes it a no-brainer for shipping carriers to use this transportation method over others.
How Much Does Intermodal Shipping Cost?
To determine if intermodal shipping is the right choice to move cargo, compare it to truckload cost. There are three approaches to pricing, which many shipping carriers use. They include:
- Contract pricing
- Spot rate pricing
- Project pricing
Each of them has its benefits. For example, contract pricing allows a yearly charge on cargo shipment, which could be beneficial to the shipper, even during peak retail periods, when the demand for products is high. Those who want to move cargo per time benefit from spot rating pricing, especially when demand is not consistent. Project pricing is applicable when pushing the limits of shipping standards. This entails transporting large-volume or heavy freights. Pricing varies among carriers.
How to Find the Right Intermodal Transport Container Carrier
Hiring the services of a reputable intermodal freight carrier can improve a business supply chain, increasing the quality of delivery and saving the owner money. There are certain steps to take to do so.
- Analyse the market, the service, and the benefits of intermodal freight transportation.
- Work with the management and operations team to understand the implications of this shipment mode.
- Conduct market research and evaluation of reputable shipping companies offering this service.
- Allow selected providers to perform freight analysis
- Understand the pricing and transit times in the freight RFP by consulting with management
Following these guidelines can help shippers select the right freight company for their cargo.
There is a bright future for intermodal shipping carriers, and this type of shipping will grow in popularity over time. It is the best method for moving large cargo over great distances, and when coordinated well, can improve the success of a business’s supply chain.