4 Way Logistics, Inc. | When Is Intermodal a Good Alternative to Truckload?


When Is Intermodal a Good Alternative to Truckload?

18 May 2016, by Mike Rogers in Blog, Intermodal, Transportation Spend



Intermodal and truckload are similar services, with each having their own strengths and disadvantages. Yet while truckload might seem like the faster and more reliable choice from a shipper’s perspective, it’s not always the best choice. Intermodal has changed over the past several years and there are often circumstances when it’s a better routing option compared to truckload.

A popular statistic is how rail can move 1.0 ton of freight nearly 500 miles with a single gallon of fuel. In practical terms this means shippers have a good chance to reduce their transportation costs if the distance between pick up and delivery is over 750 miles. There is additional handling with intermodal however, which often makes shorter shipments less expensive over the road. The proximity of the shipper and consignee to the nearest ramps affects cost as well. Generally speaking however, the longer the distance, the greater the potential cost savings with intermodal.

There is more to the equation than just cost. With the recent tightening of truckload capacity trucks can be difficult to come by. So for shippers, intermodal service may offer better access to equipment. Another benefit is that shippers can gain space and flexibility on their dock thanks to intermodal’s common use of dropped trailers.

While some shippers prefer the advantages of lower shipping costs and available capacity, others prefer the more consistent service intermodal provides. Trains typically aren’t subject to delays and driver issues the way trucks can be. In fact, rail shipments have one of the best service levels in the industry, boasting an over 98% on-time delivery rate.

Intermodal does take some additional coordination and know-how in the beginning, but once it’s part of your operation you’ll realize the savings and other benefits in a big way.

If you are considering moving some truckload volume to rail, I be happy to share my ideas for how you can get started. Check out my website at www.4way.com, or shoot me an email; miker@4way.com.