Intermodal transportation means moving large-sized goods in the same steel-based containers through two or more modes of transport. It's a typical way of moving goods in modern times. Intermodal transfer may involve truck, rail, ship, and then truck again. Basically, instead of shifting goods from one vehicle to the next in their journey, intermodal transport handles these special standardized containers instead. This process brings many benefits, such as increased safety for the goods and faster delivery.
This mode of transportation system dates back to 18th-century Britain. The British used it to move coal stored in containers over their canal network. But it wasn't until the 1960s that intermodal become the preferred choice for sea transport.
Logistics companies and international organizations made efforts to integrate the other modes of transport through intermodalism. Later, containerization and standardizing international container sizes made intermodal transport even more lucrative by enabling easy handling between modal systems. Currently, intermodal transport is the dominant mode for the global supply chain and logistics.
Thus, it's vital for anyone in the logistics business to understand this concept that drives the international shipping and trucking industry. In this article, we'll explore the features, benefits, and current market landscape for intermodal transport.
At the start of the intermodal transport process, an empty truck arrives at the consignee point. The shipper or transporter in charge loads the goods onto the container at the back of the truck. Most likely, nobody will handle these goods from this point until they reach the destination.
The truck travels to a rail yard through the road network. Here, the logistics company transfers the containers onto a train. That train might transfer the container to a railroad station in the destination city, or it might go to a port for shipping.
The shipping company moves these containers through the maritime network to the destination port. People unload the container and transfer it to another truck. Or they may put it on another train for more inland transport and then to the truck. This truck may deliver the container to the destination modal station. The trucks used to transfer these goods are called drayage, a service that only certain companies provide.
What happens next? The logistics company now removes the goods from the container. Now, the container is empty and ready for a new load. Finally, the logistics company carries out the last-mile delivery to the end user.
Why do companies use intermodal transport? It allows a logistics company to benefit from the advantages of each means of transport. Using rail service is often cheaper for inland transport. Shipping allows faster international travel over long distances. And trucks are essential for the last mile of local pickups and deliveries.
Intermodal transport has become the backbone of the trade and logistics industry because it offers so many benefits. Unfortunately, because of the long distance, some problems and situations are unavoidable. Here are some pros and cons of using intermodal transport.
These are impressive advantages! But keep the disadvantages in mind as well.
You must carefully evaluate intermodal transport by keeping your requirements and all the pros and cons in mind. When done right, this type of transport can really improve your logistics KPIs. It often makes sense to choose this mode of transportation for its high-quality and effective service and relatively low costs. Despite some unpredictability, intermodal shippers can provide a superior delivery system than other transportation processes.
According to CNBC, intermodal transport moves containers and trailers about 25 million times all over North America each year. Globally, more than 20 million intermodal containers are in use. It has been strongly promoted and developed all over the world because of its efficiency, reduced costs, improved security, and faster delivery. And these numbers are only going to increase as trade routes and infrastructure reach all parts of the globe.
With technological developments, intermodal transport today is upgrading its standards. Many online businesses rely on shipments, so there's a need for intermodal transport every day as businesses continue to tap new market regions. Also, in developing countries, the transportation industry is transitioning to a more high-tech environment. This digitalization also favors intermodal transport because digital records are easier to access and keep.
How are markets making intermodal transport more popular? What factors, if any, will increase the adoption of intermodal in the next few years?
Intermodal transport often leads to lower costs, faster delivery, safer goods, and improved sustainability. Due to these strong advantages, intermodal transport has become the preferred system of transport for most logistics companies. As global online trade and commerce grow, demand for intermodal transport will likely increase in the coming decades.
This post was written by Aditya Khanduri. Aditya currently handles product and growth at Cryptio.co, and he's also built a couple of B2B products. He's proficient in data analysis with Python and has worked with multiple startups in the blockchain and artificial intelligence sector.