Intermodal Trucking: 3 Things It Does Better Than Rail

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Intermodal Trucking - Jansson, Landstar

Intermodal transportation offers a range of financial, environmental, and operational benefits when compared to transporting freight by truck or rail alone. 

The presence of existing railroad infrastructure paired with rapidly increasing fuel prices across the United States means there’s no time like the present to consider the value that intermodal shipping can bring to your logistics strategy.  

If you’re curious about whether intermodal shipping could work for your business, keep reading to explore how making the switch to intermodal could help you cut costs, prioritize environmental sustainability, and gain the flexibility to access custom shipping solutions.

Intermodal trucking helps cut costs 

Transporting a shipment over a medium to long-distance by intermodal shipping can cost up to 10-40% less than shipping the same load over the road (OTR). 

What’s more, 2021 saw intermodal cost savings (as compared with trucking) reach their highest level since 2014.

How does intermodal shipping help cut costs? There are a few mechanisms involved, including that intermodal shipping can provide: 

  • Increased fuel efficiency
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Increased capacity 

Let’s take a look at each of these benefits in turn and explore how they result in lower net costs.  

Increased fuel efficiency

Intermodal transport offers an increased fuel efficiency when compared to OTR transport. 

This can be calculated as ton-mile-per-gallon. 

For example, an intermodal train can move 1 ton of freight for approximately 450 miles on a single gallon of fuel. This is a fuel efficiency of 450 ton-miles per gallon. 

A freight truck, on the other hand, can move 1 ton of freight for approximately 134 miles on a single gallon of fuel. This is a fuel efficiency of 134 ton-miles per gallon. 

The increased fuel efficiency of intermodal trucking can lead to cost savings. As diesel prices continue to soar, lower fuel consumption is an even greater benefit of intermodal freight.

Increased capacity

Intermodal shipping offers the additional benefit of increased capacity since a single train can transport as much as 280 million truckloads of cargo

Double-stacking shipping containers further increase capacity and are part of what makes intermodal shipping such a popular choice for high-volume loads. 

Reduced labor costs 

The increased capacity of intermodal shipping leads directly to our third benefit – reduced labor costs

An intermodal train can carry massive amounts of freight while requiring a single driver for the duration of a shift, while each individual truck that travels OTR requires its own driver.

These three benefits – fuel efficiency, capacity, and labor costs – combine to contribute to the cost-efficiency of intermodal shipping over long distances. 

To work out how much you could potentially save with intermodal shipping you can make use of an intermodal savings calculator, such as this one

Intermodal trucking offers an increased focus on sustainability

Image source: Burst; Ryan Bruce

Another significant benefit of intermodal trucking is that it can help lessen the negative environmental impact associated with freight transportation. 

With 2022 being branded by some as “the year of the greener supply chain”, sustainability is set to be an increasingly relevant priority for businesses.  

The increased fuel efficiency that we mentioned earlier helps to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide)that result from the use of fossil fuels. The AAR estimates that these emissions could be reduced by as much as 75% by using intermodal transport in place of OTR options.    

What’s more, since railways don’t deal with the congestion that occurs on roads, intermodal transportation can help to avoid the air pollution that can be caused by trucks being forced to sit idle in traffic. 

Intermodal shipping, therefore, provides a more sustainable freight option for many journeys than OTR shipping, helping to reduce fuel emissions and by extension limit the carbon footprint of a business. 

Intermodal trucking provides the flexibility to meet custom shipping requirements

If your shipment has a long way to go, chances are you can benefit from having a degree of flexibility over how it is transported. Intermodal trucking provides just that. 

Intermodal transportation combines the benefits of shipping by truck and train to leverage the best of both modalities and of their associated infrastructure. 

Rail transportation provides speed and cost efficiency over long distances, but can’t provide a door-to-door service! Similarly, smaller LTL vehicles can easily navigate urban settings to provide rapid delivery to the end customer but would be wildly inefficient cross-country. 

With intermodal shipping, you can leverage the vast range of transportation options available to construct a custom shipping solution that fits your exact needs. 

Intermodal shipping usually incorporates rail freight for the longest stretch of the journey and truckload shipping at either end. For this reason, it may be best suited to shipments that:

  • Are traveling over a medium to long-range
  • Have a final destination that isn’t too far from an intermodal terminal
  • Don’t prioritze speed of delivery (since intermodal shipping may sometimes take longer)

Leverage the benefits of intermodal trucking with Jansson 

Opting for intermodal shipping doesn’t require you to patch together carriers for each stage of your shipment journey and hope they connect! By partnering with a logistics provider that specializes in intermodal solutions, our expert team will work to construct the most efficient route for your journey. 

As an independent agent of Landstar, Jansson benefits from access to a wide network of intermodal carriers, including: 

  • Dray carriers
  • Container on a flat car (COFC)
  • Trailer on flatcar (TOFC)
  • Specialty railcars 
  • Ocean carriers
  • Steamline ships
  • Airplanes 

At Jansson, we provide the flexibility and efficiency you need with our second-to-none intermodal transportation network.

To find out more about our services or to request a free quote, reach out to us at Jansson today!

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