Offering greater capacity, increased lane options and improved reliability, shippers should consider Intermodal Rail as part of a robust transportation portfolio.
By Jerry Porter
August 23, 2017
Intermodal Service Evolves
The full range of interdependent Intermodal (IMDL) transportation and distribution services have evolved in recent years and now offer the service breadth and reliability necessary to play an important part in domestic and global supply chains.
Intermodal was once a slow Trailers-on-Rails alternative to inter-city trucking with less than dependable transit times typically available only between limited sets of origin and destination cities.
The service was not integrated operationally with other transportation and distribution components of the supply chain, thereby providing limited and highly localized activities.
Today, Intermodal offers dependable, flexible and cost-effective linehaul, dray and transload options for large and small shippers moving products through distribution networks, whether across North America between major population centers, or as “final miles” distribution of an international supply chain.
Increasingly, Intermodal is being leveraged by shippers over relatively short distances at a cost that’s competitive with OTR (Over-the-Road) trucking service.
Intermodal’s value proposition for shippers is driven by use of multiple, coordinated and highly-managed transportation and distribution services to achieve reliable, lower cost, optimized distribution.
These services consist of off-dock and terminal drayage, ocean container to domestic equipment transloading, Rail linehaul and destination drayage to effect efficient, cost-effective and risk-managed supply chains.
The development of “transloading” services - the consolidation at the inbound port of inbound ocean cargo to inland destination prior to the induction to the Intermodal Rail network - enables shippers to achieve directional and cubic capacity efficiencies.
These efficiencies drive the utilization of larger interchangeable “domestic boxes” that reflect the weight, length, door size and internal clearances of domestic 53-foot trailers onto Intermodal Rail stack trains.
These mode transfers enable the effective use of Intermodal Rail from the arrival port to the final domestic destination in order to deliver “truck-like” service at favorable economics and a “lighter” environmental footprint.
Achieving full Intermodal optimization puts added pressure on organizations to effectively integrate these various moving pieces comprising an efficient and dynamic Intermodal network through an aggressive “control tower” logistics management guiding:
- Visibility to inbound ocean freight and customs clearance;
- On-dock activities;
- Off-dock drayage;
- Transloading based on deferred allocation instructions and final-miles mode optimization;
- Intermodal Rail origin and destination ramp drays.