Challenges and Solutions in Intermodal Trucking Logistics

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By Matt Stevens, freelance writer.

Intermodal trucking has been heavily used in recent years to cover distance and reduce transport costs. However, this method also presents challenges that must be surpassed to ensure a safe shipment.

In order to address some of the challenges that intermodal trucking faces and some of their possible solutions, let's first talk a bit about what intermodal trucking is.

What is Intermodal Trucking?

Intermodal trucking is a freight transportation method that combines ships, trains, and trucks to ship cargo. First, the shipment gets loaded into a container and transported by a truck to a port or train station.

When the cargo arrives at this destination, it gets sent to another port or station. Then, it gets picked up by another truck that takes it to its final destination. While intermodal trucking uses ships and trains, the transportation will always begin and end via truck.

Benefits of Intermodal Trucking

A cargo ship or train will always transport multiple containers, making them more fuel-efficient than a single truck. This simple reduction makes intermodal trucking cheaper than over-the-road trucking.

Another good aspect of this method is the coverage. Ships can cover more areas than trucks alone, increasing the accessibility of shipment. Some even use this advantage to import or ship products to other countries.

Finally, once the transport departs, they won't make third stops. The container won't be opened until it reaches its final destination (unless there's an inspection), making it one of the safest options.

Challenges of Intermodal Trucking

Infrastructure

Intermodal trucking needs cranes and other facilities to unload and pick up the containers. If the dock or station doesn't have any of these, it may be impossible to use this method.

Trucks need proper roads in a good state in order to deliver the cargo without any setbacks. Trains also need suitable rail routes that accommodate the extra height of the containers while traveling.

Coordination and communication

All the parties involved must be coordinated to make a successful shipping. If an issue occurs and any of the parties fails to communicate, it will ultimately delay the delivery of the cargo.

Time reliability

While intermodal trucking is cheaper, it can also be slower than other methods. A single shipment can suffer delays of days or even weeks. These delays must be taken into account before requesting any shipment. If the cargo is urgent, it might be a better idea to use another transport method.

Containers

Containers are essential for those who want to use intermodal trucking. While some freight companies rent these, the cost can be high, making the shipment more expensive at the end of the day.

Solutions to these Challenges

Study the availability of containers

Companies that want to use intermodal trucking properly must settle with a freight brokerage company offering an appropriate container.

It’s also vital to conduct a proper study to see if renting a container or buying one is worth it. If the company needs to transport cargo often, consider purchasing a permanent container to fill all the freight needs.

Make upgrade requests

Users can meet with port owners and request improvements to enable intermodal trucking. These requests can be complex if only one person or company asks, so bringing other people interested in the problem to the conversation of improvement is a good idea.

If it’s impossible to improve the port or station, the company will have to find other routes that can reach the delivery point.

Organize with everyone involved

Companies can avoid communication issues by aligning with all parties involved before requesting a shipment. The clients should always seek ways to stay in close contact with the freight company to communicate and account for any setbacks that may appear along the road.

Before making a shipment, it is a good idea to speak with truck drivers and all other parties involved via WhatsApp, Zoom, or Telegram to discuss the details of the transport.

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