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What are the Advantages of Intermodal Transport?

Published: 16 March 2018 - Sarah Mead

The transportation industry has changed a great deal over the years. Tesla’s recent unveiling of their electric cargo truck is a clear indication of the continuing transformation, as it marks yet another technological innovation being put to use to assist with the transportation of cargo. While the evolution of the transportation industry has been difficult for many of those who work in the field to adjust to, it has been beneficial for businesses who have been able to greatly reduce their shipping and transport costs.

Implementing new technological innovations is an expensive business. It is not easy staying at the edge of developments after all. Reducing the costs of shipping and transport is clearly of great benefit to any business. These transportation costs represent an expense which cannot be eliminated entirely, but which can be dramatically reduced, not only by technology but also by simply using more efficient methods.

One of these more efficient methods of transporting goods is to make use of intermodal transportation methods. Put simply, intermodal transportation involved combining different methods of transportation to reduce their costs and to maximise the efficiency of their operations.

Why Choose Intermodal Transport?

Businesses who have a large amount of cargo to transport on a regular basis can make considerable savings by choosing an intermodal transport procedure. Intermodal transport policies tend to be far more cost-effective. It also allows for cargo to be transported to and from areas that would otherwise present something of a logistical challenge. Not only this but by making more efficient transportation routes viable, intermodal transport can be considered much greener than the alternatives.

Trucking has traditionally been the most common means of transportation across the United States. There are few professions or vocations which are considered to be quite as quintessentially American as trucking. However, conditions over the last decade or so have not been kind to truckers. Policies have been introduced which restrict the number of hours that a trucker can be expected to work. This is on top of the challenges of having far fewer applicants for vacant positions, and increases in fuel prices, both of which have proven to be existential threats to many existing companies.

The lower costs that result from using intermodal transport remain its biggest selling point. It is the ability to move large quantities of goods for relatively little money that makes the concept of intermodal transport so appealing and worth pursuing. Not only can intermodal transportation help to reduce the immediate shipping costs by defaulting to the best value option, it can also help to reduce costs by other means.

For example, the different shipping methods on offer mean that businesses have more flexibility and control over the loading and unloading processes. These reduced handling costs can then be passed on to the consumer.

In today’s climate, a business cannot be too environmentally friendly. The more that you can demonstrate that your business is one that takes their environmental obligations seriously, the easier you will find it to entice long-term and loyal customers to the business. Many businesses seem to remain blissfully unaware of just how much the general public cares about environmental concerns and anxieties. Switching to an intermodal transport policy can dramatically reduce your business’s carbon footprint and the impact that it is having on the environment.

To understand just how much of a difference intermodal transport can make to the rate of greenhouse gas emissions that a business is responsible for, consider the example of a truck versus a train. A truck emits something in the region of 19.8 pounds of carbon dioxide for every 100 ton-mile that they travel. A train, on the other hand, emits a mere 5.4 pounds over the same difference.

Finally, by being prepared to use a variety of different transportation methods, businesses are more able to access their equipment. If they are transporting cargo they might potentially need to access prior to its arrival at its final destination, then intermodal transport is the best way of ensuring that this is possible. Without intermodal transport, you will only have access to your cargo at certain points during its transit, which makes intercepting or diverting nigh on impossible.

By choosing an intermodal transportation and shipping policy, businesses will find that they are able to streamline their transportation logistics. As a result, they are able to not only reduce the amount of time that it takes to ship products from one place to the other but also to greatly reduce the environmental and financial costs of doing so.

How to Implement it?

Implementing an intermodal transport policy is of benefit to just about any business. Even if your current shipping and transport routes really are best served by a single transportation method or route, it is still worth investigating the potential of intermodal transport.

In making such an analysis, the first thing that you need to do is to establish the exact shipping routes. Work out what is being shipped, where it is coming from and where it’s going. As a general, although by no means all-encompassing, rule, it is the longest and most varied journeys that stand to benefit the most from going intermodal. When you think about it, this makes sense. The longer and more varied the terrain, the more transportation options there will be. Therefore, the more opportunities there will be for savings.

Once you have a detailed map of your current shipping and transportation routes, it is time to check how the rates for the various modes of transport compare. Once you look at the different methods and pricing options, you may well be surprised at just how much variability there is. For many businesses, until they actually seriously investigate the possibility of intermodal transportation, they remain blissfully unaware of just how dramatic a difference it can make in determining the overall costs of transporting cargo.

Can it Make That Much Difference?

The premise of intermodal transport, using different methods of transportation for different parts of the journey, might not sound like it’s going to make much of a difference to the overall costs of a project, but it can, in fact, have massive repercussions, especially in terms of affordability. When the principle of intermodal transport is fully embraced and pursued to its optimal conclusion, it is able to dramatically improve the efficiency that businesses operate at, while also greatly reducing the cost of shipping for consumers.

Intermodal transport is a far more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly way of transporting cargo over long distances. By utilizing the best method of transportation according to both the local conditions and the needs of customers and businesses, intermodal transportation allows businesses to move their cargo from one place to another with minimal effect on both the environment and their customer’s wallets.

The advantages of using intermodal transport should be obvious to both businesses and customers. Restricting businesses to a single method of transportation means that they don’t have the flexibility and space that they need to formulate a more efficient and effective policy. As the options available to businesses looking to transport cargo expand, intermodal transport becomes an increasingly attractive way of doing things.

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