What is Intermodal Transportation?

Posted On 9th October 2020

"What is intermodal transportation?" This is one of the most common questions asked by people wanting to learn more about the supply chain industry.

It might seem complicated at first. However, when you learn the intermodal trucking definition and intermodal shipping definition, it actually becomes relatively easy to understand.

What is Intermodal Transportation?

Intermodal TransportationSo what does intermodal transportation mean? Well, we can define intermodal shipping as the movement of goods from one place to their final destination via different modes of transport.

It basically means that the handling of the freight is taken on by various vehicles and types of transportation. This can include ocean liners and planes to truck and rail deliveries.

In order to meet the official intermodal definition, a shipment must be transported in the same transport unit for the entire shipping process. This is the answer to "What is an intermodal container?” The shipment must also not be consolidated or unconsolidated.

Intermodal Shipping Definition & Benefits

People have been asking questions about intermodal (IMDL) shipping meaning like "What is intermodal trucking?”

The practice first started in the 18th century. Even back then, the benefits of intermodal shipping for freight moving were clear to see. Here are some examples:

  • Cheaper — Companies can actually save money by understanding the intermodal trucking meaning and making the most of it. Using a truck and rail helps to save on fuel costs, for example. A train is able to move one ton of freight over 400 miles with just a gallon of fuel. This can also reduce handling costs, as the freight stays in its container for the whole trip.
  • Safer — By understanding the intermodal meaning and making the most of this system, freight can also be much safer. It stays in the same container throughout the journey. This reduces the risk of accidents during handling. Also, on intermodal rail journeys, freight is on a fixed-line, so it is far less likely to end up in an accident.
  • More Convenient — Rail networks in many countries are strong and speedy. This helps to move freight long distances in short amounts of time. Plus, you only have to worry about one bill of lading for each shipment. This makes this form of shipping more convenient in the long run when goods need to be moved a long way.

Examples of Intermodal (IMDL) Shipping

In order to really answer questions like "What is intermodal shipping?" and "What does intermodal mean in trucking?" one of the best options is to look at an example.

Let's say that a company is looking into hauling freight a long distance. They want to move one ton of freight across the country. They can make use of intermodal freight transportation to make this happen.

Truck drivers could pick up a flat rack container of freight from a port. They could then drive the container to a rail station, where rail transportation helps it continues across the country. When it reaches another station, it might be picked up by another truck and then taken to the final destination.

This example fits the intermodal (IMDL) logistics definition since it involves the use of two different forms of transportation on the same freight. So, the next time you wonder about the intermodal shipments definition or wonder, "What does intermodal shipping mean?" you'll know that it merely involves freight being moved by more than one type of vehicle in the same journey.

Below are some simple definitions to help you remember:

  • What is intermodal (IMDL): It means "using two or more modes."
  • Intermodal terminal definition: An area where shipments or freight can be transferred between different shipping methods, like ports or rail yards.
  • What are intermodal containers: Containers that store freight during these journeys? They're usually high cube shipping containers, suitable for use on ships, trains, and trucks.
  • IMDL meaning: IMDL is sometimes used as an abbreviation.

Intermodal (IMDL) Transportation Best Practices

Once you understand what is intermodal in trucking, it's worth learning about this freight movement's best practices. Here are some tips to bear in mind:

  • Pack with care — These shipments may move around a lot while switching between modes of transport. It's, therefore, essential to take great care when packing them. Make the most of blocking and bracing methods.
  • Check schedules — Depending on when a shipment begins its journey, it might get to the destination much faster. Keep an eye on rail schedules and identifies the right times to organize your shipments.
  • Choose a trusted providerProfessional transportation experts can help you better understand IMDL shipping and use it the right way. They offer experience and expertise in rail, truck, and other modes of transport.

When Intermodal Transportation is it the Best Choice

It's easy enough to understand the intermodal meaning in shipping, but when should you choose it? Well, here are a few pointers to bear in mind:

  • This is usually the best shipping choice for journeys of 500 miles or more from origin to destination.
  • It's a good option for a cargo of intermediate value.
  • It's the right choice for cargo that needs to keep flowing and repeat journeys.
  • It's also often the best method for goods in loads of 25 tons or fewer, per unit.