Intermodal Shipping Best Practices

An intermodal shipping program can create savings throughout your supply chain.

An intermodal shipping program can create savings throughout your supply chain.

In the past, moving commercial goods across the globe safely and effectively meant limiting number of different transportation modes involved — for example, relying solely on ocean freight for international shipping or ground for domestic limits the number of touchpoints, thereby reducing the risk of delays or user error. However, in light of shifting consumer expectations, companies are finding they need to utilize more than one type of transport in order to heighten efficiency and maximize their freight program’s ROI. Luckily, intermodal shipping makes this a relative breeze. Here’s how it works.

The Benefits of Standardized Containers

Intermodal shipping is the practice of shipping goods using multiple modes of transportation, generally in a single container that can be transferred from one mode to another without handling the freight itself. Because the freight is handled less often, it’s at a much lower risk of damage or theft.

Intermodal shipping can generate considerable cost savings. By transporting their goods via rail and trucks, for example, shippers can take advantage of rail’s fuel efficiency and reduce their carbon emissions. Whenever goods need to be transferred from train to truck, the standardized container is simply lifted from the train car to the truck bed — a highly time- and cost-efficient process. In effect, intermodal shipping allows companies to increase flexibility and cost-savings without a corresponding uptick in expense and risk.

Identifying Opportunities and Mitigating Risk

So when should you actually ship intermodal? Obviously it’s not always the way to go, but many shippers overlook textbook opportunities to consolidate their freight and generate significant savings. For example, truckload and less than truckload (LTL) is a common go-to option for domestic transport; however, by switching to rail at key junctures (assuming your route overlaps with existing rail infrastructure), you can avoid roadway congestion and cut your fuel costs by a significant margin.

Shippers should also work to minimize the physical risks associated with intermodal shipping. Although less freight handling can make your cargo more secure, companies still need to use appropriate packaging in order to reduce movement within the container itself. Employing techniques such as weight distribution and floor blocking can prevent cargo from shifting front to back or side to side, minimizing damage to the freight.

What to Look for in an Intermodal Logistics Partner

The best way to maximize the value of your intermodal shipping program is finding a highly experienced, customer service-focused logistics partner. A qualified providers will be able to coordinate freight transfers quickly and efficiently, avoid unnecessary delays and fees, and respond to any sudden changes or issues should they arise. Moreover, it will utilize the most up-to-date tracking technology in order to monitor your shipments, making the entire process more transparent and manageable.

With nearly two decades of experience under our belt, Primary Freight has the resources and expertise needed to help you optimize your intermodal shipping program. Our dedicated and knowledgeable team is committed to developing creative, outside-the-box solutions and bespoke technologies in order to drive value and satisfaction for our partners.

If you’d like to learn more about what makes Primary Freight an ideal shipping and logistics partner, give us a call today at (800) 635-0013.