Intermodal Transportation

What is Intermodal Transportation In Shipping?

To put it simply, intermodal transportation in shipping refers to goods that travel onboard different types of vessels such as cargo ships, trains, and trucks, within a single journey.

Suppose you’re moving goods through different modes of transportation during the same delivery process in standardized intermodal containers that generally follow the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) guidelines. In that case, you’re partaking in intermodal transportation.

The ISO guidelines allow goods to be transported as they are within the container instead of offloading and loading the goods into new containers each time.

Example of Intermodal Shipping

Consider the following example of intermodal shipping: imagine a truck arrives to pick up an order from the consignee. The shipment is uploaded to the truck’s container. The truck then takes the container to a railroad where the container is then loaded onto a train. Now, depending on where the goods need to be delivered, the train might take the container to a shipping port where the container is loaded onto the shipping vessel and transported via the sea to its intended destination.

Once again, the container is loaded onto a truck and delivered to a logistics company where the goods in the container are finally unloaded. The container in which the goods were initially delivered can now be reused for other deliveries, and the logistics company can further deliver these goods to their customers.

Benefits of Intermodal Shipping

Many benefits come with intermodal shipping such as:

  1. Quick delivery due to standardized shipping containers and using efficient modes of 
  2. transportation.
  3. Affordable due to lower handling and transportation costs.
  4. Secure delivery due to standardized containers, which are inaccessible during the shipping process.
  5. Good for the environment.

Disadvantages to Intermodal Freight

While intermodal transportation has numerous benefits, the following disadvantages should also be considered:

  1. Significant resources are needed to set up handling.
  2. Increased transit times in some cases.

Which Products are Best for Intermodal Transportation?

Intermodal transportation is open to almost all types of products and there are no restrictions on what can and can’t be transported as long as they fit in an intermodal container. However, shipping personal belongings and living animals might not be permitted when using freight railroads, so that’s something important to keep in mind.

Cost of Intermodal Shipping

While the initial cost of intermodal shipping might be high, intermodal shipping in and of itself is cost-effective in that it’s more efficient to handle cargo once the infrastructure is laid out. Costs will vary depending on how much you plan on shipping and who you are shipping with. You’ll need to compare rates among carriers to find out the best rates for intermodal shipping.

Related Shipping Terms

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