Environmental Impact of Intermodal Transport: Is it Green Enough?

Intermodal transportation uses one or more methods of transportation to move freight from the shipper to the final destination. The methods include rail, air, water, and road. Of these three methods, trucking is the most versatile because it fills in the gaps between the other forms of transportation, particularly at the beginning and end of the logistics journey. Rail, air, and water are particularly useful for transporting freight over long distances, either nationally or internationally. Together, these options can be a green solution. 

Intermodal transportation is efficient and scalable. It also reduces costs and risks. While these benefits are noteworthy, the most surprising and interesting advantage of intermodal transportation is that it is environmentally friendly. A multi-carrier approach may not sound like the most eco-friendly strategy, but it is an effective way for companies to reduce their carbon footprint and improve the bottom line. 

Read on to learn about the environmental benefits of intermodal transport. 

Examining the Environmental Impact of Intermodal Trucking

Intermodal Transportation is Fuel-Efficient

For long continental journeys, rail travel is a valuable asset. Freight trains are more fuel-efficient than OTR trucks. Freight trains do not require as much fuel because they are aerodynamic. They also operate at a higher capacity and speed. Using freight trains instead of long-haul trucks is better for the bottom line and the environment. According to the EPA, utilizing intermodal rail for shipments over 1,000 miles will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 65%. 

For intercontinental shipments, cargo ships carry large volumes of freight in shipping containers. The efficient, space-saving containers optimize the load of each ship and reduce the need for additional trips. The standardized containers also improve efficiencies during the loading and unloading processes, which reduces the resources required at port. 

Trucks are critical to the intermodal transportation systems. Trucks make short trips between warehouses or distribution centers and the final destination. The smaller trucks used for drayage are more fuel efficient than the large diesel trucks used for OTR. 

Intermodal Transportation Relies on Eco-Friendly Materials

Standardized shipping containers made of steel or aluminum are integral to eco-friendly intermodal transportation. They fit together like puzzle pieces so the capacity of each journey can be optimized. Shipping containers are durable and long-lasting so they can be used repeatedly. Using shipping containers reduces the need for single-use materials. While both steel and aluminum are recyclable, retired containers are often creatively repurposed into tiny houses, offices, or stationary storage facilities. 

Intermodal Transportation Reduces Air Pollution

Shipping with multiple modes of transportation reduces air pollution. Trucks are required for at least one segment of every shipment. While long-haul diesel trucks have many benefits to logistics, when they are the exclusive means of cargo transport, they do contribute to highway congestion. Congestion, particularly around cities, leads to idling traffic. 

When trains and ships are used to move freight for the longest portions of the shipment, and trucks are used for the shorter distances, fuel efficiencies are optimized and road traffic is reduced. This leads to lower levels of air pollutants. 

Verdict: Intermodal Transport is Green

The environmental impact of intermodal transportation is as low as possible because intermodal transport leverages the benefits and efficiencies of each method of transportation. When we take a closer look at the fuel efficiencies, reusable materials, and reduced air pollutants, the verdict is clearly that intermodal transport is the green logistics solution. 

Pursuing environmentally friendly supply chain and logistics solutions requires creativity and flexibility. Within each method of transportation, there are many opportunities to harness existing efficiencies and implement innovations. Thankfully for shippers, carriers, and every stakeholder involved, choosing green solutions is good for the bottom line. Reducing fuel expenditures, alleviating traffic congestion, and decreasing time spent idling in traffic saves money and labor costs. Packing freight in sturdy steel and aluminum containers that can be reused many times saves money on shipping materials. The standardized design of the shipping containers also saves time during the unloading and loading process.

There are many different intermodal trucking companies, and it is critical to choose the best freight logistics specialist to oversee your intermodal transportation solutions. The freight logistic coordinator must have extensive relationships with terminals, understand how to liaise between customers and transportation modalities, and have the most up-to-date technology to keep the cargo safe. With over 60 years of experience, QFS is a global leader in intermodal trucking. With skillfully trained drivers, sophisticated tracking technology, and meticulously maintained fleets, QFS is an expert in ensuring customers receive their products on time and in perfect condition. Shipping rates are competitive, so you always get the best deal. Customer service is exceptional and every detail is carefully considered. To take advantage of the environmental benefits of intermodal transportation, contact QFS today!