When Should I Use Intermodal to Ship Goods?

Intermodal is the use of multiple transportation modes to move freight. These modes include OTR (over the road) trucking, rail and by ship.


At first, it might seem complicated to pass your shipment from one mode to another, but it is actually quite efficient for saving time, fuel and money. For example, if you use drayage to cover a short distance from the warehouse to the rail ramp, then a train can reduce the risk of delays caused by traffic, and they use less fuel.


Now, the next question is: how do I know when intermodal is the best solution for shipping my load? Below, we’ve listed a few scenarios where intermodal services can be more beneficial to ship with than say, relying on drayage services alone.

A train pulls containers across the country

Long distances

Need to ship across the country? If so, intermodal is a fantastic way to cut fuel costs that can accumulate rapidly if you were to use a long haul carrier for all those miles. Instead, rail is better for longer distances. You cut down on fuel and save time.

Several containers

If you have to move a large amount of freight, rail is also a good option to save time, effort and resources. Trains can pull several containers in one trip.

A long haul truck passes a distribution center

High value freight

Cargo theft is a problem when shipping  high value items such as electronics or pharmaceuticals. If you’re shipping solely via truck, risk increases. From idling to parking in a dim lot, thieves have gotten quite savvy over the years to get their mitts on the valuable items inside a truck trailer. Intermodal ensures that freight keeps moving, reducing the risk of theft. Plus, once on a train, the containers are locked securely and monitored around the clock.

Flexible timeline

If you have a flexible timeline for delivery, and want to maximize costs, then intermodal is a smart way to move goods. Intermodal transit time is typically slower. You need to be able to plan ahead and accommodate delays without issue.