What is Intermodal Trucking?

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When it comes to the logistics of freight and shipping, not everyone knows what intermodal trucking is or why it is useful. This particular method of freight transportation is used by many shipping companies in order to facilitate a more efficient shipping process. But what exactly is it and how does it work?

Intermodal Trucking

Intermodal trucking is an aspect of intermodal shipping, which requires goods to be carried in special containers on a truck. These special containers are designed to allow freight to be placed on a new mode of transportation, such as a railcar or an aircraft, without the need for repackaging it.

Of course, there’s a bit more complexity to the situation than that, but don’t worry, we are going to discuss the things you need to know about intermodal trucking in detail.

Understanding Intermodal Shipping

Before we can really talk about intermodal trucking, one needs to understand the concept of intermodal shipping. Intermodal shipping is when freight is transported to its destination via multiple forms of transport. For instance, if freight was initially carried by truck for the first half of its journey, then by rail in the second, that’s intermodal shipping.

So, by definition, intermodal trucking is an aspect of intermodal shipping. Intermodal trucking is all about having freight that is already in proper containers that are suitable for other types of shipping. That way, the freight does not have to be repackaged between the various modes of transportation that it will be using.

Intermodal shipping most often involves trucks, railways, and seafaring vessels. While it can go in a different order, most of the time, intermodal shipping involves freight arriving on a boat, being moved onto rails immediately available at a port, and being picked up and delivered by trucks to their final destination.

Think of a shipping company like Amazon. Their products may arrive by boat, then be moved to a warehouse by rail, then taken from those warehouses to other locations. This is intermodal shipping, though the key element to take into consideration is the packaging of the freight in question. It has to avoid repackaging.

Why is Intermodal Trucking Important?

Primarily, the value of intermodal trucking is in maximizing efficiency and reducing the cost of shipping. The process of opening a package and repackaging it to fit different specifications whenever transportation mode changes costs time and money, none of which is good for the company’s bottom line or the customer.

That said, it’s more accurate to say that intermodal shipping is important, more than intermodal trucking, which is just an aspect of it. But having trucks capable of functioning in an intermodal process is very important. The biggest reason for this is the versatility it offers to the shipping process.

If you are using intermodal trucking, you have access to far more shipping options, since you can easily switch the freight to ships or railroads. All of the required locations for those different methods of shipping can be easily reached, and the packages themselves are already prepared for different modes of transportation.

This makes it much cheaper to ship things and makes it much easier to hit shipping deadlines as well. It also offers far more flexibility than traditional shipping. By using intermodal services, one doesn’t have to restrict themselves to a singular type of shipping, which means obstacles or unexpected issues are less likely to cause problems.

Is Intermodal Trucking Vital to Intermodal Shipping?

Yes, absolutely! Intermodal trucking is arguably the most important part of intermodal shipping. That’s because compared to all of the other types of shipping, trucking is the most universally available, and the one that is most suitable for getting freight from one mode of transportation to the next. 

Obviously, ports, airports, and railway stations are all pretty limited in their locations. However, roads tend to connect all of them in some shape or form. This means that freight can almost always be delivered to one of those transportation hubs via a truck. Trucks do most of the networking between these transportation hubs.

Intermodal Truck Driver

If you needed to get your freight from a port to a rail station that was a dozen miles away, you would have a tough time without a truck to get it there for you. The same is true for all of the other transportation hubs. You need trucks to get the freight to and from them, so having intermodal trucking is integral to intermodal shipping.

The Growing Need For Quaility Drivers Hauling Intermodal Freight

The Intermodal shipping industry is pushing for changes to attract more truck drivers to haul their freight. One way they are doing this is through an increase in pay. For nearly 20 years the average yearly pay for truck drivers didn’t change much but lately there has been a push to change that. The industry is becoming much more competitive as they are experiencing the difficulty in hiring qualiy drivers.

Another waythe intermodal truckinking industry is trying to change things to get more drivers in the workforce is by trying to change the CDL age limit from 21 to as low as 18 years old. There is much controversy about this push as to whether or not it’s a good idea. The change would obviously bring more drivers into the industry but would the lack of life experience be beneficial? Many are arguing against this push.

Final Thoughts On Intermodal Trucking

As you can see, intermodal trucking is an incredibly important part of efficient shipping, in regards to both time and money. That’s why any serious shipping company will consider the value of intermodal trucking and the many benefits it can provide for them, in both money and effort. Saving on both is always desirable.

Harold Thornbro