When Should Intermodal Transportation Be Used?

Intermodal transportation is the shipment of goods using two or more methods of transportation. Cargo is loaded onto shipping containers that are transferred between some combination of trucks, trains, planes, or ships. Each leg of the journey is operated by a different method. Intermodal transportation is regarded as a consistent, cost-effective, and environmentally responsible way to transport goods long distances. 

In this guide, we discuss the industries that rely on intermodal transportation and times when it is most 

suitable to choose intermodal transportation. 

What industries rely on intermodal transportation?

Intermodal transportation is a game changer for many industries, including the following: 

  • Manufacturing – Manufacturing companies rely upon intermodal shipping to fulfill large-scale demands, both in terms of size and volume. Most manufacturers’ freight is heavy, oversized, and needed in large quantities. Intermodal transportation simplifies complex shipping operations by picking up and delivering large cargo using two or more methods of transportation without handling the cargo along the way. 
  • Automotive – The automotive industry frequently uses intermodal transportation to move parts and vehicles between production facilities, distribution centers, dealerships, and buyers. Trucks, trains, and boats make the process of moving cars efficient and cost-effective. 
  • Agriculture – The agricultural industry depends upon intermodal transportation for the movement of products such as grains, fruits, and vegetables. Trains and trucks are commonly used to get the products to market quickly. The agricultural industry also relies upon intermodal transportation to move livestock and equipment between farms, distribution centers, and more. 
  • Retail – Retail companies use intermodal transportation to move products from manufacturing facilities to distribution centers and then on to retail stores. Retailers may use a combination of trucks, trains, and ships to reduce costs and optimize the supply chain. 
  • Energy – Energy companies use intermodal transportation to move natural resources like oil, natural gas, and coal. These resources are moved between production sites, refineries, and end users on some combination of truck and train. 
  • Chemical – The chemical industry relies upon intermodal transportation to securely transport hazardous materials. Intermodal transportation solutions help companies maintain compliance with regulations and ensure safety. 
  • Healthcare – The healthcare industry requires secure and temperature-controlled intermodal transportation solutions to move medicines, equipment, supplies, and medical devices long distances. Intermodal transportation guarantees products reach hospitals and healthcare facilities in a timely manner. 

When To Use Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal is not suitable for every type of shipment, but it is essential for a few. Here are a few instances in which intermodal transportation is likely the best solution. 

  • Shipping a Large Amount of Cargo – Companies that ship large quantities of goods use intermodal shipping for shipping consolidation. Shipping consolidation allows businesses to save time and money on expensive and time-consuming handling. 
  • Requiring Regular Deliveries – Companies that require regular deliveries often opt for intermodal transportation due to its consistency, reliability, and cost-efficiency. 
  • Requiring Flexibility – Some companies need flexible shipping solutions to meet changing needs and adapt to shifting circumstances. Intermodal transportation is the solution due to its scalability and variety of solutions. 
  • Shipping Oversized or Heavy Freight – Some freight types are too large or cumbersome to transport by a singular method. Shippers will opt for intermodal transportation to move their oversized or heavy goods to access more transportation options and unlock key flexibility. 
  • Shipping Long Distances – This is perhaps one of the most notable instances of intermodal transportation because intermodal transportation is the most cost-effective way to ship freight long distances. This is due to the fact that there are fewer stops, and the combination of transportation allows for optimizing the method for each stretch of the journey. Commonly, the longest part of the route is handled by a train, which is one of the most cost-efficient methods of transportation. 
  • Prioritizing Sustainability – When goods are moved efficiently, it is good for the bottom line and the environment. With intermodal transportation, companies can unlock massive fuel savings and relieve highway congestion. 

Intermodal Transportation with First Star Logistics 

First Star Logistics is a global freight brokerage company with over 60 years of experience. We take a unique, asset-based approach to arrange and secure freight transportation between states and countries. We are one of the fastest growing logistics providers, and our clients benefit from a comprehensive North American network and global reach. Our specialized services include package optimization, network modeling, routing optimization, inventory organization, and supply chain data management. We work with cutting-edge technology to ensure effective and easy-to-use shipping experiences, no matter how large or far the shipment. 

To learn more about intermodal shipping, read our blog Intermodal vs. Multimodal: What are the differences? 

To partner with First Star Logistics, contact us today.