What is intermodal transportation?

Get Free Quotes

Defining intermodal freight transportation.

Intermodal is the use of two modes of freight, such as truck and rail, to transport goods from shipper to consignee. The intermodal process usually begins with a container being moved by a truck to a rail, then back to a truck to complete the process. There are about 25 million containers moved via intermodal shipping each year.


Benefits of intermodal freight transportation.

  • The railway system requires less fuel than road transport. Therefore, intermodal shipping lowers costs and contributes to a greener environment. 
  • North America’s comprehensive rail network makes it possible to send shipments from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and everywhere in between.
  • When you need to make additional space on your dock, or prepare and load a shipment over the course of days, dropped intermodal container fees are minimal in comparison to full truckload.


Intermodal shipping best practices.

  • Identify the opportunity: Intermodal can be a solid selection for shippers that are sending multiple LTL shipments to the same destination several times a week. Additionally, intermodal is a great way to reduce your organization’s carbon footprint. 
  • Package carefully: Intermodal shipments do not typically leave the container between the shipping origin and destination. However, the container itself experiences quite a bit of movement throughout the process. Blocking and bracing techniques should be used to keep freight from moving within the container. 
  • Work with a freight service provider: Teaming up with intermodal transportation experts will make the process less stressful from start to finish. It’s important to select a provider that has the ability to negotiate rates with Class 1 railroads. 


Common intermodal transportation questions.

  • When should you choose intermodal shipping? Shipments best suited for intermodal are typically longer haul lanes moving within 200-300 miles of a major metro. 
  • What is drayage service? Short distance trucking as part of a longer distance freight shipment.
  • What type of freight solution do I need? To determine which shipping solution meets your needs, a number of factors need to be considered. Our dedicated experts can help find the right solution for you. 
  • What is the difference between intermodal and multimodal transportation? While both intermodal and multimodal transport involve the movement of cargo using two or more modes of transport, there is a primary difference. In intermodal shipping, each mode of transport has its own carrier, with its own contract. Multimodal on the other hand, uses two or more modes of transport but under a single contract or bill of lading.


Freight shipping resources.


Do you have a shipment to book?

Get Free Quotes

Get Your Shipping Quote

Intermodal freight shipping.

We offer real-time intermodal rates and an in-house team of experts to make your rail shipments easy.

More Intermodal Info

LTL freight shipping.

Choose from hundreds of contract carriers with our self-service online tools or work directly with a freight expert.

Uncover Leading Service

Truckload freight shipping.

Easily ship your refrigerated, flatbed and dry van freight with our large network of contract carriers and the guidance of our freight professionals.

Explore Our Network