What is Intermodal Transportation? An Introduction to One of the Best Shipping Ways in the Transportation Industry

This blog post was last updated on March 6th, 2022

Have you ever wondered what intermodal transportation is? You’re not alone.

The term “intermodal” derives from the words “inter” and “mode,” which in Latin would translate as something “between modes.”

But what does that mean in logistics and in practice? Let’s take a closer look!

Table of contents

  1. A Quick Definition: What is Intermodal Transportation?
  2. How Does Intermodal Shipping Work?
  3. Understanding Intermodal Transportation
  4. The When and Why of Intermodal Shippments
  5. Is it Time to Jump Into an Intermodal Freight Shipping Strategy?
  6. 10 Things to Ask Yourself if Intermodal Shipping Is Right for You?
  7. Getting Ready for Intermodal Shipping and Working With Intermodal Providers

A Quick Definition: What is Intermodal Transportation?

In logistics, what we’re talking about when we say intermodal transportation is the action of moving freight by more than one mode of transport for a single journey.

In simple terms, this means that goods are moved within the same container from one destination to another by a combination of two or more modes of transportation.

How Does Intermodal Shipping Work?

An intermodal load, unlike a truckload shipment, can use different intermodal providers to transport cargo loads from their points of origin to their final destinations.

This could mean moving freight by railroad, container ships, cargo aircraft, and trucks.

The Intermodal and Multimodal transportation differences

Now, it’s important to understand that even though they might look similar, intermodal and multimodal transport differ in some ways.

The key difference is that with the intermodal shipping process, the cargo is placed onto a unique sealed container, which will be the one that will be transferred onto the different modes of transport used. Shippers also have to negotiate every leg of the shipping journey with several carriers.

On the opposite, with multimodal transportation, the cargo could be unloaded and reloaded at every step of the journey, increasing risks of damage and breakage, as well as potentially human labour on site and inventory costs if it can’t leave the facility right away. Also, with multimodal, the shipper sign here one and only contract with one carrier. This is the same carrier that will take care of the full shipment from A to Z.

Read more about the differences between intermodal and multimodal transportation on our related blog post.

Understanding Intermodal Transportation

The importance of trucks in the intermodal service

Intermodal trucks are what most people think of when they hear the term “intermodal” transit.

Trucking companies handle around 71% percent of all intermodal transportation in the United States and in Canada; the trucking industry generates almost 39.55 billion Canadian dollars from almost 63.7 million shipments.

But while trucks do make up a large percentage of total intermodal transportation activity – they don’t do it alone.

Other major transportation modes in the intermodal shipping process

These vehicles can easily pick up and drop off containers that have been transported by plane, ship, or rail intermodal, making them “combination carriers” or “intermodal shippers” because they’re capable of carrying multiple types of freight on each trip.

This means a truck can drive away from a train after it’s been loaded and then, before completing its journey, back up onto another vehicle for the trip until its final destination.

A closer focus on the Rail Intermodal Transportation

The rail service is actually a great way to move large or heavy freight for a domestic long-haul portion.

Why? Because rail intermodal transportation is one of the most reliable and safest forms of freight transportation. Without dealing with truck drivers’ breaks, hazards, or congestion on highways, trains ensure that the container arrives on time.

It also allows reducing freight costs when it comes to long-distance shipments. With larger quantities moved at once and less fuel consumed than over the road intermodal transportation. If you want to reduce transportation costs, rail is the way to go!

The When and Why of Intermodal Shipments

The reasons as to why and when a company should consider intermodal transportation are many, including:

  • time savings due to reduced transit times through the use of multiple modes of intermodal freight transportation
  • reduced carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants due to the use of more than one intermodal shipping mode
  • lower costs because rail cars can cut out road transport completely or reduce it dramatically
  • delays and backlogs in the supply chain with truckload carriers and logistics companies
  • Increased transportation costs as a result of customer demand and current world events

When considering what modes of intermodal transport will be used, companies need to carefully consider their route.

For example: if the cargo travels through an urban environment where there is heavy congestion on major highways, then using intermodal shipments that travel by rail car might make sense as opposed to long haul trucking.

The key thing here is whether your shipment can avoid going onto roads at all, as this could result in time savings and environmental benefits for your business.

To ensure you’re getting what you pay for from an intermodal provider, always ask about transit times between origin and final delivery points.

Is it Time to Jump Into an Intermodal Freight Shipping Strategy?

Before you can answer if intermodal transportation is right for your business, first, let’s start with what it isn’t.

Intermodal transportation isn’t suitable for all businesses.

Companies that move dangerous products or environmental hazards may be at a higher risk by using several intermodal shipping modes.

Rail intermodal service may be inefficient and less durable than a full truckload freight transfer schedule for businesses that need rapid shipments or regular deliveries.

Of course, while every sector has its drawbacks, intermodal freight moving included, none are without their advantages as well.

Businesses that move an abundant quantity of low-value goods with longer transit times may also benefit from intermodal shipping.

As would businesses that move large value items at more regular intervals who value safety and security.

Intermodal transport integrates more efficiently by packaging cargo in standardized intermodal containers across multiple modes of transportation without being opened or manually handled from the point of origin until the final destination.

Because each leg connects seamlessly but still requires equipment specific for different types of cargo, there are many advantages of intermodal shipping.

For example, if your business moves a high volume of any kind of goods, including retail items, construction supplies, and other heavy cargo across the country, a domestic intermodal shipping strategy can cut costs on some routes through improved fuel efficiency.

And unsurprisingly, the cost is, without a doubt, one of the reasons why the intermodal movement is so popular.

10 Things to Ask Yourself if Intermodal Shipping Is Right for You?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining if intermodal shipping is the best option for you and your business:

  1. Does your company currently transport goods over 300 km (186 miles) in distance?
  2. What types of products or raw materials do you need to transport? Are they restricted items?
  3. What is the total weight of your average shipment?
  4. Do you transport high-value freight? Is security a concern for you?
  5. Where is the shipment point of origin? Final delivery? Are they near or close to rail terminals or an intermodal ramp?
  6. Can your products be packaged and shipped safely in an intermodal container?
  7. The railway system has its limitations; how important is flexibility in scheduling to you?
  8. What type of intermodal containers might you require?
  9. Is scalability a priority for you and your business?
  10. Is sustainability a concern for your business? Does your company value reducing its carbon footprint and environmental impact?

Once you’ve answered the questions and determined that intermodal transport might be the right move, it’s time to consult with a full load intermodal rail consultant.

qualified rail expert can help you choose the right intermodal shipping route and advise what type of equipment will be best for your cargo.

Now that you’re equipped with a bit of information on what intermodal rail shipping entails, are you ready to consider the benefits of moving your goods by train?

port employees counting and inspecting intermodal containers

Getting Ready for Intermodal Shipping and Working With Intermodal Providers

When shipping intermodal, what type of equipment you need is dependent on what your company will be transporting.

Competitive pricing, increased fuel efficiency, and improved security are just a few reasons why intermodal shipping might be the right move for your business.

Working with an experienced rail consultant can help guide what types of intermodal containers to use and what routes would be best for your cargo.

They can also help you determine what types of equipment might be required and assist with the logistics involved in setting up a domestic intermodal shipping schedule.

When getting ready to move goods by rail, it’s important to familiarize yourself with what is or is not allowed on board as well as when your cargo needs to be on board.

Here are some items that might not be allowed in an intermodal container: hazardous materials such as explosives, flammables, and corrosives; cars or trucks; live animals; perishables like food and other high-value cargo where time is of the essence.

A full load railway professional can also advise what days of the week are best to transport what types of goods.

When looking to partner with an intermodal provider, consider how long the business has been operating, what average amount of savings they can offer, and what supply chain routes they specialize in.

Whenever it comes time for your business or company to start shipping goods by rail, some considerations must be made before choosing the best route.

Whether you’re looking for cost savings and improved fuel efficiency on certain routes or if security and safety are a priority issue, an experienced full-load intermodal rail consultant can help determine if this is the right strategy for you.


Are you looking to make the jump into rail shipping in Canada? Head over to our blog for more information on how to get started with rail, or dive right in and request a rail quote here.

When to Use Intermodal Transportation: Businesses That Use Intermodal Shipping and Why You Should Make the Switch!

This post was last updated on March 6th, 2022

Have you ever wondered when to use intermodal transportation?

Well, the answer is that they are many and varied. And while some people might not think it’s a good idea for their business to make the switch, there are many benefits to intermodal shipping.

In this article, we’ll discuss four different types of companies that should consider intermodal freight transportation and why it can be beneficial for them.

What is Intermodal Shipping?

The Intermodal transportation system is the service of shipping goods from one place to another by using a combination of rail transport, air cargo, trucking, or waterway.

To do so, the cargo is loaded into intermodal containers once and for all for the full trip. Unlike multimodal transportation, those containers are the ones that will be transferred to the different transportation modes. Cargo handling is then way reduced, making it safer and cheaper in a way.

In the logistics industry, intermodal transportation is known to be a more consistent service and a cost-effective, fuel-efficient way of moving freight while being environmentally responsible all at the same time.

According to the IANA (Intermodal Association of North America), 95% of all manufactured goods spend some portion of their shipment in an intermodal container.

The main benefits of Intermodal transfers:

– Cheaper transportation costs compared with other forms of shipping;

– Being more environmentally friendly with fewer emissions, reduced carbon footprint through fuel efficiency compared to other actors of the shipping industry such as trucking companies;

– Saving time, allowing for faster deliveries and better service to customers by having everything consolidated under one carrier;

– Ease in switching transport modes thanks to intermodal containers, which reduces the risk of damage to cargo during shipment.

Get to know more of the intermodal transport advantages by reading this post on the blog!

4 Industries That Use Intermodal Transportation and Why

  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Foodservice providers
  • Retail and e-commerce

1) Manufacturing Companies

Manufacturing companies are among the top intermodal transport users.

Intermodal transport as a method of shipment is very advantageous for manufacturing companies because it allows them to meet large-scale demand more quickly.

Indeed, most of their freight is large, bulky, and difficult to move by traditional means because of its size or weight. Plus, manufacturers usually need to move their goods on time, and intermodal transportation is the perfect solution.

Logistics companies that offer intermodal freight shipping services will pick up and deliver their heavy and oversized cargo using two or more modes of transportation without cargo handling in between, allowing the transportation process for manufacturers to be way easier.

2) Construction Companies

Next up are construction companies.

One common problem that arises when dealing with heavy machinery is getting it from one place on-site to another without causing damage or injury to people, the equipment itself, or the surrounding site.

This is where intermodal freight transport services come in handy for construction companies because they use special standardized containers that can be double stacked for maximum efficiency to high-volume shipments that are easily accessible by forklift trucks and cranes.

Construction companies will also find intermodal transportation beneficial when shipping equipment overseas.

3) Foodservice providers

Foodservice providers play a vital role in intermodal transportation.

For example, one of the most common companies that use intermodal freight transportation is Starbucks Coffee.

It’s estimated that around 65 to 70 percent of Starbucks’ supply chain operating expenses were tied to intermodal freight transportation

Retailers in the food industry can save 15%-20% on costs by using intermodal providers.

And if you’re running an e-commerce business, it’s likely your company will also benefit significantly through intermodal transport as well!  

4) Retailers and e-commerce companies

One final group that’s benefited from intermodal transportation is retailers and online merchants.

The intermodal freight transport system has opened up new opportunities for online stores to expand their markets, allowing them to reach customers around the country with lower costs.

Retail businesses rely on manufacturers to deliver their goods to the final destination to sell out onto store shelves and online where end consumers can purchase them.

Without getting these goods quickly, they’d have nothing but empty shelves inside their establishments. Because of this, intermodal transportation benefits retailers largely through a reliable capacity to grow and scale.

When to Use Intermodal Transportation: 5 Reasons Why It’s Time to Make the Switch 

It’s best to switch to intermodal transportation when your business has a few key things going for it.

For intermodal transportation to be a viable option, your business should:

1. You ship a large amount of cargo

Businesses that ship large amounts of goods or require items regularly are the first ones that can benefit from intermodal freight shipping.

Why? Because intermodal transport could prove cheaper and more efficient than other methods.

It offers less handling time which means more savings in labour costs. When sending large quantities of goods either on domestic shipping or for international trade, the many pallets or lose freight handling costs can add up quite quickly!

2. Have oversized or heavy freight that’s difficult to move by traditional means

Another group of businesses that can significantly benefit from intermodal transportation is those with oversized and heavy freight that’s difficult to move by traditional means.

You might find yourself in a bind when it comes time to transport these goods. But no more with intermodal transportation!

If your business is in the automotive, construction, or even heavy-machinery industry, you might want to consider intermodal providers to put an end to those transportation problems.

3. Ship long distances

For companies with a growing demand for shipping both domestically and internationally, intermodal freight transportation can be a great option.

If your business is shipping products over long distances, using intermodal as a mode of moving freight will save you time and money.

Why? This is because there are fewer steps along the way, and plus, with rail service being part of the mix, you can optimize shipping time. Forget about truck drivers’ breaks every two hours or congestion while driving by an important city. Intermodal rail can make your full supply chain faster for the long haul of your shipments.

Note: To ensure that you’re not paying too much in brokerage fees on your shipments, consult an intermodal shipping provider.

4. Have a strong understanding of its shipping needs and requirements

Before consulting with an intermodal service provider, you should have a strong understanding of your shipping volumes, schedules, delivery times, and what your business needs are.

This will allow intermodal transportation providers to provide an accurate quote for your intermodal shipments.

Businesses that are starting to ship intermodal need an intermodal shipping provider they can trust.

A good intermodal transportation company will take the time to understand your business, its goals, and objectives so it can provide you with a solution for all of your intermodal needs.

5. Be able to make the commitment in terms of time and money for intermodal transport services

Businesses that want to invest in intermodal for their shipping strategy should be willing to spend some time investigating the offers on the market, the available providers, the common routes and rail services, the infrastructure in place etc.

Why? Because negotiation will be mandatory. If you don’t know what you are talking about, that would make things a lot more complicated.

This is where intermodal service providers are advantageous because they have agreements with carriers that allow them to provide you with the best services and rates on intermodal transport.

It might not always be easy to have a dedicated team internally responsible for overseeing intermodal shipments. This is why partnering with an externalized team or an intermodal provider can definitely help you.

business man standing in an empty shipping container

Partner with the #1 intermodal rail transport provider in Canada

An investment for future transportation costs’ savings

Investing in dedicated support to oversee your intermodal transits is not always realistic.

Instead of taking on additional overhead, companies should instead partner with a dedicated intermodal freight shipping service provider.

By providing accurate shipment information about contents, weight, and dimensions, intermodal transport providers can offer support in supply chain management in ensuring shipments arrive safely to their final destination.

RailGateway, the intermodal rail reference in Canada

Looking to reduce your shipping costs in Canada?

With over 40 years combined of full load intermodal freight shipping experience, RailGateway.ca intermodal transportation experts will help you find the best intermodal shipping solution for your business and budget.

We can help you reduce transport costs as you move your product from coast to coast in the most efficient way possible.

We’ll work with you to do whatever it takes to speed up shipment times and lower shipping costs.

You can rely on RailGateway.ca for one-on-one rail consulting for all your transportation needs.


If your business meets these requirements, then it’s time to consider intermodal transportation.

Intermodal service has been offering more than just economic benefits such as lower costs and faster delivery.

And while intermodal transportation is not for every business, it does have its advantages when used correctly – with the right intermodal shipping provider, you and your business can save valuable time and money!

Are you looking to make the switch to full-load rail transport? Contact one of our experts for your free intermodal rail quote today.

Choosing Your Intermodal Carrier: What to Look for & 28 Questions To Ask

This post was last updated on March 6th, 2022

Choosing an intermodal carrier can be tricky. There are many intermodal transportation providers out there, but not all offer the same services or prices.

If you want to make sure that you choose the best one for your freight transport needs, then read on! 

In this article, we’ll discuss four types of intermodal freight transportation providers and what questions to ask before choosing one.

Table of contents

  1. Understanding Intermodal Freight Transportation
  2. What to Look For in an Intermodal Carrier?
  3. 28 Questions You Should Ask an Intermodal Shipping Provider
  4. Our Final Advice On Choosing Your Perfect Shipping Partner
aerial view of intermodal freight transportation containers on railroad tracks

Understanding Intermodal Freight Transportation

The growth of intermodal shipping in Canada

Though intermodal freight shipping in Canada is expected to decline in revenue by 3.3% (Rail Transportation industry in Canada), the intermodal freight transportation industry has grown immensely over the past decade.

Now worth $25.2 Billion (2020), experts predict that it will grow to US$68 Billion by 2027.

As this shipping solution market continues its rapid expansion, many businesses are wondering which intermodal providers are available for them to use? And how do they choose one?

Of course, choosing the right intermodal provider can be difficult. There are many factors to consider, and it’s not always clear which one is best for your business. 

The first step is figuring out what intermodal shipping is and what type(s) of intermodal service you require. 

What is the meaning of intermodal transportation?

Intermodal is a freight transport system where goods are moved using various transportation modes, using intermodal trucking services, the railway system, or even air and ocean routes if shipping internationally.

The real specificity of intermodal shipping is that intermodal containers are used by these logistics companies in order to keep the load into the same container from departure to the final destination.

It makes it a great, cheap, and safe solution if your overall freight distance is exceeding 500 miles.

The different intermodal transportation modes

  • Rail transport
  • Airfreight
  • Truck
  • Ocean freight

The intermodal shipping process

When intermodal shipping is involved, freight companies use two or more modes of transportation to move your goods.

The intermodal carriers first load the cargo into an intermodal container, then ship it, usually by truck, to an intermodal ramp. There, it will be lifted and moved to a flat car to be shipped by rail, boat or plane.

It might be transferred one more time thanks to intermodal trucking companies for the last mile delivery, so it can reach its final destination via road transport.

This process allows great fuel efficiency, lower carbon footprint, and consistent delivery times that are more cost-effective than other options.

Types of intermodal transportation services

The intermodal shipping process often involves the use of railroad systems to transport goods, and it’s worth noting that there are two different types of intermodal freight transport, both of which include rail:

  • A container on a flatcar (COFC) is an efficient and cost-effective form of intermodal shipping in which four containers may be loaded simultaneously onto a well-car.
  • The trailer-on-flatcar (TOFC) method is the type of intermodal transport in which an over-the-road trailer (OTR) is placed directly on the well-car.

What to Look For in an Intermodal Carrier?

Who are the intermodal carriers?

The intermodal freight transportation provider is a key player in the supply chain.

They provide freight forwarding, intermodal trucking options, intermodal rail service, intermodal container shipping, and intermodal ocean or air freight services to companies that want to ship their products across the country with minimal hassle.

Depending on their specific intermodal services, they are the ones that can provide the loading equipment freight containers. They might also arrange coordination when changing transportation modes or extra assistance.

While one sole company may not offer all these intermodal shipping services in-house, having a clearly outlined intermodal process can help you work with a combination of partners at the right times.

How to choose a reliable intermodal carrier?

An intermodal provider should offer most of the services mentioned above and should be happy to answer any questions you may have about their service before finalizing your decision!

Over and above the services provided, intermodal shippers should:

  • Have experience in intermodal freight shipping
  • Offer dropped intermodal container fees discounts and reduce transportation costs based on your company’s volume
  • Provide exceptional customer service for any questions that may arise before, during, and after the intermodal shipping process!
rail cargo foreman talking with crew and pointing off into the distance

28 Questions You Should Ask an Intermodal Shipping Provider 

Basic questions about their intermodal services

  • What types of intermodal services do you offer?
  • What is your intermodal process?
  • What intermodal services do you offer for my business? (specialized trucking? intermodal rail services? Ocean freight? Airfreight?)
  • How will it affect my company’s supply chain?
  • What are the sizes of the containers you operate with?
  • Do you have temperature-controlled or refrigerated containers?

Price-related questions

  • What are your base costs associated with the services you offer?
  • Are there any additional accessorial fees that may apply after delivery, such as customs clearance or terminal handling charges (THC)?
  • If so, who is responsible for them, and when must they be paid to prevent delays in receiving my cargo? 

Operational questions

  • Do I need to book a container ahead of time, or can you drop-ship on demand at competitive prices?
  • How far in advance should I book an intermodal shipment?
  • Do you have your fleet of trucks/container carriers/rail equipment? Or do you work with other intermodal transportation freight providers depending on the shipment?
  • If so, which partners do you work with?
  • What are your intermodal container recycling policies (i.e., what happens if a customer decides not to ship into that particular intermodal provider’s yard)
  • What intermodal freight shipping schedule can you offer me?
  • What allows you to meet shipping deadlines?

Location-wise questions

  • What ports/airports do your transportation services use most often for shipping intermodal containers across the country?
  • What is the usual delay for a domestic intermodal shipment from X to X?
  • Where is your intermodal facility located, and when can I pick up my cargo to avoid delivery delays?
  • What intermodal rail terminals do your serve?

Questions about the Insurance of the shipments

  • Do you have proof of insurance on hand for me to see during the consulting process?
  • Or will it be available upon request once we’ve discussed freight forwarding pricing quotes?
  • Is there intermodal shipping insurance? Who and what is insured?

Questions related to the tracking of the shipments

  • How is the intermodal freight service tracked?
  • Can your team contact us with updates on the delivery of my shipment?
  • What intermodal freight tracking technology do you use?
  • Is it live tracking?
  • Can I have access to that information at any time, or shall I get in touch with you?

Our Final Advice On Choosing Your Perfect Shipping Partner

When looking for intermodal transportation services, it’s crucial to find and work with an intermodal provider that can grow with you while saving you money.

Ask questions about their process before finalizing your decision so you can be sure they have experience in the types of services you need.

Make sure they offer discounts and can provide you with great customer service by answering any questions that may arise during the course of business with them.

A good partner will have an established intermodal process in place. They should also be able to provide intermodal shipping insurance and assist you through each shipment step by step!

By answering these questions, you can ensure your intermodal transportation provider is trustworthy and committed to providing quality services for businesses like yours.

You’ll leave knowing whether or not they have their own fleet of trucks/container carriers/rail equipment so that there are no surprises in costs down the line when it comes time to book.

Great customer service skills will mean that any concerns you may have about the intermodal transport process will be answered promptly, which ensures minimal delays in delivery!

Finally, environmentally conscious policies such as recycling intermodal containers will show that they care about the future of intermodal transportation and are committed to providing sustainable intermodal services.

Ready to go Intermodal?

Make the switch to intermodal shipments!

Are you wondering if intermodal shipping will work for your business? At RailGateway.ca, we help Canadian companies move their full load freight in a simple, low-cost, high-quality method that cannot be matched anywhere!

Get a FREE rail quote today and see by yourself the difference we can make on your logistics!

Get Ready for Rail Shipping in Canada: 5 Steps

This post was last updated on March 6th, 2022

Canadian businesses are about to be hit with a new and exciting change: rail carrier shipping.

An increasingly popular it’s a more efficient and cost-effective way to ship goods than traditional methods. 

As the demand grows, you should make some important considerations before jumping into the growing market of rail service. In this blog post, we’ll outline five steps that will get you ready for rail shipping in Canada!

Table of contents

  1. Five Steps in Getting Ready for Rail Service

FAQS

  1. Can you ship by train in Canada?
  2. How much does it cost to ship by rail?
  3. How do I track my rail shipment?
  4. Is shipping by rail cheaper than truck?
  5. What kind of shipments can I book using your services?

Intermodal Transportation in Canada

With an increased focus on intermodal traffic, the Canadian railway industry has undergone massive changes in recent years.

And now that the industry is ready to recover its losses and welcome new players into the game, it’s essential to explore the steps required before executing this type of supply chain shipping for your company. 

Rail Shipping Canada Considerations

– How will your business capitalize on the growing demand? 

– What are you looking to ship via rail freight transportation, and what is feasible given your current supply and demand chains?  

– Where are you currently experiencing service issues, backlogs, delays?

– Are you experiencing an increase in rail shipping rates?

Canada offers several benefits for businesses looking to ship via rail service. Access and ease of service, environmentally friendly transportation, and potential cost savings of transportation services upfront.

railroad engineer looking over train before shipping

5 Essential Steps in Getting Ready for Freight Rail Service

Getting ready for rail shipping is as easy as following 5 simple steps.

1. Consider your product type

What type of goods do you want to transport via shipping containers? Are they fragile or heavy-duty? Are they packed or unpacked?

Know that trains are great transportation solutions for almost any type of cargo, from grain to vehicles and from common consumer goods to construction equipment.

But, it’s good to know that some products and hazardous materials are strictly regulated when using rail shipping. Stay informed about those regulations by consulting transportcanada.ca or registering for their dedicated Newsletter.

2. Check your network

Are you currently experiencing issues with the railroads or another intermodal service provider that may be solved by switching carriers?

The global marketplace is changing, and long haul North American services with it. Canadian railways are ready to provide better service, but it’s important to make sure that your partners can leap with you.

If a particular railroad provides poor performance or increased costs, consult RailGateway.ca for a list of available carriers and service routes.

Get your FREE quote to learn more about what opportunities await you in long-distance freight rail.

3. Know your rail shipping rates

Some products have a generalized transport cost of an intermodal transport solution. Check with RailGateway.ca to find out how much it will cost you to ship the cargo you want before making any commitments.

Rail rates are subject to change at different times of the year due to weather conditions and other factors that affect performance on Canada’s railways.

Plan ahead! It never hurts to get more than one quote for future planning purposes.   

4. Get your equipment

The process of rail shipping in Canada is straightforward, but there are certain requirements to follow.  

First and foremost, you need a suitable container for the trip. Shipping containers must be clean (not contaminated) with no hazardous contents or materials inside.

For more information about what containers are available with RailGateway, visit our dedicated page on our container details & specifications.

5. Get your documentation in order

For rail shipping, you’ll need to be able to provide a commercial invoice detailing the contents and value of items shipped.  

Be sure also to check that all necessary documents are readily available before we arrive at your location: permits, licenses, and insurance certificates that may be required by law.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you ship by train in Canada?

Absolutely, we can!

Canada benefits from a vast rail network that allows deliveries on long distances, from a point on one coast to another without much trouble.

Canadian railroads are equipped to handle a variety of freight traffic, including being renowned as the safest method to move dangerous goods and hazardous materials (even though this type of shipment is strictly regulated).

At RailGateway, we partner with two major and reliable Canadian Rail Companies, CP (Canadian Pacific Railway) and CN (Canadian National Railway Company).

How much does it cost to ship by rail?

Rail rates are subject to change based on weather conditions and other factors influencing railway efficiency throughout the year.

Did you know, though, that you can transport two to three truckloads in a single railcar? This equals cost savings in any light.

How do I track my rail shipment?

With RailGateway, you’ll get a comprehensive status update every day that will show you all of the information about your intermodal transportation shipment from pick up and delivery locations to appointments, container numbers, and drops to where your container is in transit. All of your railway freight shipping needs are in one place!

Is shipping by rail cheaper than truck?

It’s difficult to compare costs against one another because it depends on the type of equipment you are using and what kind of cargo you are transporting.

That said, train transport is generally more cost-effective than truck transport if you plan a shipment on long distances.

What kind of shipments can I book using your services?

RailGateway.ca offers full load 53′ and 40′ intermodal transportation services across Canada coast to coast.

We can pick up from any dock/port going to any dock for all railroad freight.

Freight shipping by rail is one of the biggest trends in freight transportation.

Rail transport has many advantages, including lower cost per kilometre than trucking and less congestion on highways. It also offers better fuel efficiency than trucks.

Rail shipments are also more secure than other forms of transportation because they require minimal loading or unloading at the destination terminal.

And most rail carriers offer door-to-door service with convenient pickup options.

Railways have been used as a means of transportation since the mid-1800s, and today they are still widely relied upon.

Rail shipments can be faster than by truck or air, but getting your company ready for rail shipping will take some time.

Get started on Intermodal Rail Shipping with our Rail Carrier!

Once you’ve addressed all these considerations, it’s time to move forward into getting quotes from carriers that specialize in rail freight service across Canada!

With RailGateway.ca, it’s never been easier to ship freight with rail. Contact our experts and check out our best rail freight rates, route, and transit time to move your shipment across the country!

And know that whether you’re shipping from Toronto to VancouverMontreal to Calgary, or Edmonton back to Toronto, we at RailGateway can deliver.

Request your FREE rail quote with the experts at RailGateway today! 

The Top 18 Intermodal Terminals in Canada

Canada is a country with diverse natural resources, and it’s also home to some of the largest Intermodal Terminals. The Intermodal Terminal Network in Canada has grown over the last several decades and as global trade continues to grow, more Intermodal Terminals are flourishing across this great nation.

Which Intermodal Terminals rank among the top ten in Canada? Read on to find out!

Intermodal Transport

Intermodal transport is the transfer of goods from one transport mode of transportation to another, such as when cargo is transferred from a ship to a train.

Time and cost of transportation, availability of services, and legal and insurance issues are just a few of the factors that must be considered when selecting a shipping method.

There are many actors involved in the transportation of products, such as shippers and logistics providers, as well as government agencies.

Intermodal shipping containers allow for the more efficient and less costly movement of goods because they can be transported on land, water, or air.

Intermodals are typically used for manufactured products that ship in large volumes and have standardized sizes for packaging or units.

Intermodals provide an alternative to traditional break-bulk cargo handling methods by simplifying the loading and unloading process at ports, and at rail and road network points as well.

By reducing labor costs and time required at each intermodal terminal stop, intermodal services can also save energy and emissions by requiring fewer trucks on the road.

Intermodal Transport Services

Canada has over 41,700 route kilometres of rail network tracks, 559 marine port facilities, and 1.13 million two-lane equivalent public roads and 81 airports – a report by the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC).

The report, with project funding partners such as Alberta Transportation, Metrolinx, Ministère des Transports du Québec and the Region of Peel is a look at the history, purpose, and operation of goods movement in Canada.

Canada’s trade is built off the backbone between three main corridors:

1. The Western Asia-Pacific Corridor. Established in 2006 with the launch of the Asia–Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative (APGCI)

2. The Ontario-Quebec Corridor. The principal economic corridor of Canada supports $560 billion of trade.

3. And the Atlantic Corridor. A transportation network of intermodal and rail terminals that connect North America to European countries, and markets in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia via the Suez Canal

intermodal terminal

A Look at the Top 18 Intermodal Transport Terminals in Canada

Canadian National Railway Company (CN)

*From East to West but in no particular order

  • Halifax, NS
    Port Code: 009
    Sub. Code: 2021
  • Moncton, NB
    Port Code: 206
    Sub. Code: 2108
  • Montreal, QC
    Port Code: 395
    Sub. Code: 2414  
  • Malport, ON
    Port Code: 495
    Sub. Code: 3006
  • Brampton (Toronto), ON
    Port Code: 495
    Sub. Code: 3037
  • Winnipeg, MB
    Port Code: 504
    Sub. Code: 3147
  • Saskatoon, SK
    Port Code: 605
    Sub. Code: 3215
  • East Regina, SK
    Port Code: 0604
    Sub. Code: 5817
  • Edmonton, AB
    Port Code: 702
    Sub. Code: 4492
  • Calgary Logistics Park, AB
    Port Code: 701
    Sub. Code: 5426
  • Vancouver, BC
    Port Code: 809
    Sub. Code: 3373

For a complete look at CN’s interactive map of intermodal terminals and yards, visit www.cn.ca.

CP Rail facilities and intermodal terminals

*From East to West but in no particular order

  • Lachine Intermodal Terminal (Quebec)
  • Vaughan Intermodal Terminal (Kleinburg, ON)
  • Winnipeg Intermodal Terminal (Manitoba)
  • Regina Intermodal Facility (Saskatchewan)
  • Edmonton Intermodal Terminal (Alberta)
  • Calgary Intermodal Terminal (Alberta)
  • Vancouver Intermodal Terminal (Pitt Meadows, BC)

Download CP Rails North American Rail map here.

11 Contributing Factors of a Top Rated Intermodal Terminal

Intermodal terminals are designed for a specific use, and a number of factors can affect their performance.

Intermodal terminals should be able to handle large trucks efficiently and have basic functions and terminal infrastructure processes in place.

These terminals offer many different advantages, including:

– Proximity to major trade corridors, ports, and population centers  

– The ability to handle a wide range of cargo types 

– A lower environmental footprint

When analyzing intermodal terminals for your transportation needs, consider the following:

  1. Do you require the use of rail-mounted gantry cranes? Is this an important factor in the execution of your intermodal transportation process?
  2. Is there a local terminal manager? What kind of local support is there?
  3. Are double-sided rail access mounts and ladders available? Will your shipments require the use of one?
  4. What international and domestic relations does the terminal have? Is expansion into European countries and other markets important.
  5. Is there sufficient parking space?
  6. When handling equipment, what intermodal operators are involved?
  7. Is there a dedicated operational company?
  8. Will you require and/or is it rail-side access?
  9. What is local demand like?
  10. What market segments does the terminal or yard specialise in, if any?
  11. Is there interim storage facilities available in cases of delays or emergencies?

Canada is a vast country with people and goods moving in and out of the country every day. Intermodal terminals are responsible for this movement, giving Canadian businesses access to markets all over the world. With so many different modes of transportation available, it can be difficult to keep track of who is running what terminal or where they’re located.

At RailGateway we want to simplify the intermodal supply chain process and industry by offering our clients unparalleled customer service while saving them time and money.

Whether you’re shipping from Moncton to Vancouver, Toronto to Winnipeg to Calgary and back again – we have the experience you need to ship your cargo from the east coast to the west. Contact us today for your FREE quotation.

Preparing for Success with Intermodal Rail: Reducing the Risk of Loss, Damage, and Claims

This post was last updated on March 6th, 2022

The intermodal rail industry has seen a steady increase in goods shipped by rail intermodal containers.

More and more companies are choosing railroads and taking advantage of the efficiencies of intermodal transportation.

Unfortunately, many businesses are unaware that they may be exposed to increased intermodal shipping risks.

At RailGateway, we want you to know what these risks are so you can prepare yourself for rail intermodal traffic success!

This blog post will go over the steps needed to reduce the risk of loss, damage, and claims from shipping with rail intermodal.

Be sure you have a plan in place before your next shipment by reading this article!

Table of contents

  1. Five Steps in Reducing Risk in Your Intermodal Supply Chain

Intermodal Freight Rail

What is intermodal rail?

Intermodal rail freight is the transportation of goods by combining two or more modes of transport.

The most common intermodal combinations are:

– Rail and Truck

– Rail and Ship

– Truck and Ship

Rail intermodal has become a preferred choice for companies shipping goods long distances because it’s more efficient on the long haul portion of the shipping journey than by truckload alone.

Indeed, the rail service operating with intermodal containers can hold more cargo than trucks. They can also travel and be transferred much faster from one part of the supply chain to another, as cargo handling is unnecessary when using an intermodal container.

Intermodal freight rail is also a more environmentally-friendly option than trucking and can considerably reduce transportation costs on your bottom line.

Curious about the other advantages of intermodal shipping? Check out other benefits of intermodal transport.

The evolution of rail intermodal traffic

The world of shipping logistics is changing and evolving, and so are the options available to shippers.

Domestic intermodal traffic and international intermodal shipping are constantly growing, especially in North America.

In the United States, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) recorded a rise in intermodal traffic of +4,9% of intermodal units shipped in 2021 vs 2020 and stated that 2021 was the second-best year ever for intermodal shipping after 2018!

Rail Intermodal has many benefits over other modes of intermodal transport, such as trucking or air freight, but it also comes with some unique uncertainties for your cargo. 

One way to reduce these risks is by being prepared in advance, and there’s a lot you can do ahead of time that will make your experience with rail go smoothly from start to finish!

damaged cardboard box next to a transport truck

5 Steps in Reducing the Risk in Your Rail Supply Chain Intermodal Service

Shipping with rail is a safe and secure way to move freight. That said, you can’t prevent loss or damage all of the time, but you can be prepared for them when it does happen.

Step 1: Packaging & Containers

The first step you can take is knowing how your vendor handles your rail freight.

It’s generally the most straightforward instructions that have the biggest impact. When packing your items, you should constantly examine how your vendors handle your freight and how well they follow proper practices.

Shipments must be packed in a container that’s appropriate for their contents. Never exceed the maximum capacity of the gross weight of the container.

Double stacked containers have a maximum stack load. Stacking pins are used to organize and stack containers on top of one another. And each pin has a locking pin on one end and a plate.

Containers locked together can help minimize the chance that they will shift during transit. As a result, container stacking pins are usually worth the investment.

Lastly, any content susceptible to being damaged during transport should be wrapped or packed securely in the container.

Step 2: Shipment and rail transport labelling

The next step in preparing your rail freight for success is labelling.

Railroad companies require that all shipments are correctly labelled with the appropriate information to help identify and track shipments.

It’s also important to remember that light markings may fade with time, so labels on equipment or containers should be maintained and replaced regularly.

In addition to this, there are a few other labelling tips that can help reduce the risk of loss and damage when shipping with rail:

  • Labels should not be placed on sealing tape or over a seam or closure.
  • Cover old labels or remove them entirely
  • Place an identical form of address information within the container for added security.

Step 3: Have the appropriate personnel in place

It’s imperative to employ skilled and experienced personnel and choose a trustworthy intermodal carrier to examine each shipment thoroughly.

  • Is the correct number of containers accounted for?
  • Is anything damaged?
  • If boxes are open, are all the contents accounted for and in good condition?

It’s also best to ensure that inspections are done thoroughly before signing for any shipment.

Step 4: Choose the right lift equipment

Moving freight with the right equipment can make a real difference in your logistics.

A forklift is a valuable tool for any company that needs to stack containers.

Forklifts come in different types, depending on the height of your stacks and what kind of job you need.

If it looks like there might be any trouble handling larger loads, consider using cranes.

Step 5: Make sure you have a plan

When working with any form of intermodal volume to move cargo on freight railroads, it’s essential to know your rights as a shipper.

If cargo is misplaced or damaged, you’ll need to know the next steps and who to contact. 

Stop the unloading process if there is any sign of damage and notify your carrier and insurance provider as soon as possible.

If there is extensive damage, your transportation company may demand that a surveyor be sent to assist with the unloading.

Railgateway is here to help you with any loss or damage questions that you may have. We are committed to providing our clients with reliable, safe, and cost-effective services.

It would help to familiarize yourself with your rail intermodal insurance policy to know what it entails. And take note of any emergency contact details just in case.

Being prepared ahead of time can help ensure a smooth, quick recovery when issues arise, so be sure to have a plan and an intermodal transportation partner you can trust!

Common causes of cargo damage:

  • Packing Carelessly
  • Labels and markings that are incorrect
  • Unsafe movement of mechanical handling equipment
  • Incorrect weight loads & lifting gear

Conclusion

Shipping by rail offers several advantages over multiple modes of transportation. It’s generally faster, more cost-effective, and can be safer with the proper precautions.

Want to make the jump into rail intermodal shipping in Canada?

At RailGateway, we’re committed to helping you prepare for success with intermodal rail so that your shipments arrive safely and on time, every time.

Whether you’re shipping from Montreal to Vancouver, Toronto to Edmonton to Calgary, and back again – we have the experience you need to ship your cargo from the east coast to the west.

Contact us today for your FREE quotation!

The Who, What, Why and How of Intermodal Shipping (Plus how it can save you money)

This post was last updated on March, 6th 2022

The intermodal shipping industry has changed a lot over the last few years. More and more companies are taking advantage of the benefits of intermodal shipping to cut down on transportation costs, fuel usage, and carbon footprint emissions. 

Let’s discuss what intermodal freight is and why you should be considering full load intermodal rail transportation for your company’s freight shipping services in Canada.

Table of contents

  1. What is intermodal shipping?
  2. What does full load intermodal shipment refer to?
  3. What is an example of intermodal transportation?
  4. Why is intermodal shipping so economical?
  5. How long does intermodal transport take?
  6. The different intermodal tansportation modes
  7. The intermodal shipping process
  8. What products can you ship using intermodal shipping?
  9. What can an intermodal container carry?
  10. Why is intermodal transportation necessary?
  11. Who should use intermodal freight transportation?

What Does Intermodal Rail Mean?

What is intermodal shipping?

Intermodal shipping is a method of transporting goods or cargo by using a combination of two or more modes of transportation to ship freight and goods from one location to another.

Intermodal freight transport can ship into the same container without handling cargo in between modes, making it one of its strengths.

What does full load intermodal shipment refer to?

When collaborating with logistics companies, you might encounter intermodal providers using specific rail industry terms that you’re unfamiliar with.

One term you may come across is ‘full load.’ In the intermodal rail shipping world, full load generally refers to a shipment that is booked to fill an entire intermodal rail container.

What is an example of intermodal transportation?

An example of intermodal transportation would be using a truck to transport goods to a train station, where the goods are then transported by rail to another destination.

This is often a more efficient and cost-effective way to move freight and cargo than using just one mode of transportation.

Why is intermodal shipping so economical?

Intermodal freight transportation container fees tend to be lower than a full truckload. They’re also easier to load on ships and unload, reducing the cost of cargo handling and labour for international shipments.

It’s also more economical than other forms of freight shipping because it can reduce the number of carriers involved in the supply chain process and cut down on the number of vehicles required to deliver a load or shipment. This is especially true when rail is involved.

How long does intermodal transport take?

The time frame for an intermodal shipment depends on what form of transportation you are using and where that destination may be located compared to your current location.

For example, North American intermodal shipment services can take a few weeks when using ship carriers for international service.

Truck, air, and train intermodal shipping services can take up to a couple of days.

And U.S cross-border delivery – well, that all depends on a variety of network capacity and carrier supply shipping restrictions. 

Are you looking for more information about full load intermodal rail shipping services within North America and Canada?

Contact a RailGateway.ca customer service expert to help you with your intermodal rail quote today. We can help you save big on your next logistics shipment.

different modes of intermodal transportation depicted in circles connected by lines

The Different Intermodal Transportation Modes

There are four modes of transportation available for intermodal shipping:

  • Road transport with trucks, trailers, and truckload deliveries
  • Rail intermodal transport with trains and railroads
  • Airfreight with aircrafts
  • Maritime transportation by boat

Intermodal freight shipping & rail service

The difference between rail and intermodal is intermodal freight services transport goods from shipper to consignee in intermodal containers by truck and rail from seaport to inland destinations.

It’s an effective form of transportation in North America, and RailGateway has been the #1 choice for intermodal shipping across Canada since 2001.

How does intermodal shipping work?

The intermodal shipping process

With international shipping costs at record highs and numerous air transportation delays, domestic intermodal shipping has become an effective and money-saving solution.

Suppose your company’s goods are transported via truck from a seaport, then loaded onto rail cars for transport inland. The intermodal transportation process can be broken as such:

  • Products are loaded onto a truck bed (chassis), then driven to the docks.
  • The container/ containers are then transported by truck or multiple trucks to an intermodal shipping dock nearby. This kind of freight transportation is often referred to as “drayage.”
  • In order to ship or haul the containers by rail, they must first be lifted off of the chassis and onto rail cars.
  • When a container is delivered to its final destination (another intermodal ramp or cross-section), it must be put back on a truck for delivery.

Once your container is on the flat car or well car, it can travel for thousands of miles before arriving at its destination.

The intermodal ramp does not only lift cargo from truck to train. They are also responsible for loading/unloading containers and trailers and all other modes that move cargo, including air intermodal shipments.

What products can you ship using intermodal shipping?

You can ship both hazardous and non-hazardous products with domestic intermodal rail shipping.

Hazardous materials require specific containers, typically a Type 7 container, and can not be interchanged.

What can an intermodal container carry?

Intermodal containers are routinely used to carry heavy machinery and equipment, furniture, non-perishable goods like clothes or electronics, and temperature-sensitive perishable goods such as seafood and medicines.

Intermodal containers can also transport liquids and refrigerated cargo. So it’s important to ensure that you book the correct intermodal shipping container for the type of cargo you’ll be sending.

The best way to answer that question is to check the type and dimensions of the containers used by your carrier or to get in touch with its team directly.

Why is intermodal transportation necessary?

The main benefits of moving freight through intermodal shipping include reduced costs, better fuel efficiency, reduced carbon footprint emissions, increased capacity in a single shipment.

There are other reasons why intermodal transport is important in the shipping market:

– Less noise pollution as trucks no longer pass through neighbourhoods or small towns

– Ease in managing the planning processes with the elimination of traffic and customs processes on major highways

– Leaner planning process, eliminating the needed support for large volume shipments that can unexpectedly disrupt supply chain networks

– Fixed departure schedules, meaning that customers can plan their intermodal deliveries, with some rail consulting of course.

For more details, look at the 7 benefits of intermodal transport on the blog!

Intermodal transportation is a critical component in the modern supply chain. It’s important to make sure you’re opting for an economical form of shipping and one that will be environmentally friendly.

Who should use intermodal freight transportation?

Intermodal shipping is available to any shipper and can help companies save money. The first and last mile is done by truck, but most of each shipment is completed by rail, assisting corporations to save on costly last-mile logistics.

Essentially the question should be, how far are you shipping?

Intermodal service can be a good choice for shippers moving goods and cargo over 800 km (500 miles) or more. Long trips require lots of fuel, but rail can help reduce this cost and promote a carbon footprint-friendly shipping mode. If your truckload must move longer than a single day, rail might be a sensible alternative.

We recommend intermodal freight service to any company transporting goods from one province to another in Canada.

Intermodal shipping is the future of transportation. With containers being cost-effective and providing unparalleled service, it’s time to try out these new ways for a successful shipment!

Become a RailGateway partner today!

Request an intermodal rail quote to speak to one of our rail consulting experts.

You’ll gain flexibility and competitive prices for your business from handling to delivery with our intermodal services.

7 Steps in Making the Jump Into Rail Shipping in Canada

This post was last updated on March, 6th 2022

If you’re not already aware, rail shipping is quickly becoming a popular way to move freight across the country.

Rail service offers many advantages over long-haul trucking and can be an excellent option for companies looking for an economical and reliable transport solution. Rail has been around for more than 150 years, and it’s only getting bigger!

It’s time that we talk about how businesses can get ready for rail transportation shipping in Canada.

Table of contents

  1. Seven Steps in Getting Started with Rail Service
    • Learn the concept of rail shipping
    • Secure your cargo
    • Determine the type of cargo
    • Determine rail routes
    • Research the best rail shipping companies in Canada
    • Get a frieght quote
    • Negotiate
  1. Four reasons why you should switch to rail transportation
    • Cost Savings on your Supply chain
    • Moving freight in a more sustainable way
    • Safety for your Rail Shipment
    • Fast Shipping for your Rail Shipment
a happy rail shipping worker giving a thumbs up to a colleague

7 Steps in Getting Started with Rail Service

Rail shipping is a great way to transport goods across the country, and it’s becoming increasingly popular among businesses. If you’re thinking of making the jump into rail shipping, there are seven steps you need to take first:

1) Learn about the concept of rail shipping and how it works.

Rail shipping is different from other forms of transportation, so it’s important to understand the process before you start using it.

2) Secure your cargo

The first step is self-evident. You must purchase the logistics you’ll need to transport your goods by rail in Canada!

Once you’ve secured your products, it’s time to think about where you want to go and how quickly.

Rail service is available between commercial zones across the country, so it’s important to find a rail-shipping partner who can help you determine which mode of transport – truck or rail – will be most economical based on your needs.

Once that’s all determined, then you’re ready to start shipping!

Rail shipping is an excellent option for companies looking to streamline their freight operations and take advantage of fast, economical deliveries.

3) Determine the type of cargo

Rail offers different services depending on your needs, including flatcars, full load intermodal containers, bulk materials, project cargos, etc.

Rail provides large quantities, long distances, and regional services for transporting many commodities.

Rail can move freight at significant savings over other modes because it is less labour-intensive when done correctly, reducing the cost per mile by as much as 25%.

Freight shipping by rail is easy when you partner with the experts at RailGateway. Contact our team of experts today!

4) Determine rail routes

Understanding and managing your inbound freight will help you determine which route is best for your shipment.

Rail is a unique mode of transportation because the train must adhere to local and federal laws. Strict rules govern rail movements, so you must have an experienced rail professional on your side who can ensure compliance with all regulations before any shipments move out.

1. Identify where your cargo shipment is arriving

2. Refer to the CN freight trains rail stations and terminals map

3. Cross-reference stations and terminals with distribution centers

4. Determine if there are any gaps within the pick and drop off locations

5. Determine if the freight can be delivered to a loading dock or does it need door-to-door service

At RailGateway, we can help determine any other options and identify the fastest, most cost-effective routes! Contact one of our rail intermodal service representatives to get started on rail transportation. Rail is a great way to ship, and we’d love to help you learn how!

5) Research the best rail shipping companies in Canada.

Not all companies offer the same services or rates, so it’s important to do your homework and find a company that meets your needs.

6) Get a Freight Quote

Once you’ve determined the type of cargo that needs to be shipped, it’s time to request a quote.

The easiest thing you can do is contact RailGateway with your full load intermodal shipping requirements.

We will work with you to determine the best option for your rail freight shipment and provide an accurate estimate, so there are no surprises when it comes to costs!

At Railgateway, we offer a broad range of rail shipping services ideal for customers shipping commodities in bulk. We can help arrange expedited door-to-door transportation with fast pickup and delivery options designed to meet tight time constraints at affordable prices.

7) Negotiate

Rail companies are constantly looking for new business, so they’ll likely be open to negotiating with small to medium-sized companies that want their services.

If negotiations go well, you’ll want to conduct a test run with your product to ensure that it’s the right size and meets rail freight regulations.

Once your shipments comply with rail regulations, then you’re ready for the final step – shipping!

Four reasons why you should switch to rail transportation

Rail transport has many advantages. It represents an efficient transportation model for companies to move materials worldwide.

1. Cost Savings on your Supply chain

Benefits include operating costs savings with a lower cost per mile than trucking, as they can ship higher volumes of merchandise at once.

2. Moving freight in a more sustainable way

As an environmentally friendly alternative to trucks, rail freight service also allows having less congestion on highways and better fuel efficiency than trailers. That also converts in fewer greenhouse gas emissions!

3. Safety for your Rail Shipment

Rail shipments are also more secure than other forms of transportation. Rail transport moves in a safe rail network, monitored continuously by Rail Authorities.

4. Fast Shipping for your Rail Shipment

Rail transportation is getting faster every day across Canada, making it an excellent option for today’s businesses’ “just-in-time” delivery schedules.

Forget about unexpected congestion on the road, shipping on rail lines will make it easier!

Note that if your plants or warehouses don’t have direct rail access, most of them can also offer door-to-door service with convenient pickup options for items that can’t be delivered to a loading dock as extras!

Here are a few things to know before you start booking a freight train

There are some key things that businesses should keep in mind when preparing rail freight.

Rail transportation is not like trucking or other modes of transport run here in North America.

Train service operates on different systems and follows very specific guidelines for weight, size, hazardous materials, dangerous goods handling, etc.

Rail does not transport certain hazardous materials; this includes radioactive, corrosive, or flammable items, which must be labelled correctly before shipping via rail in Canada.

Looking for a Rail Freight Partner in Canada?

Rail Freight in Canada

Rail freight services have always been an important part of Canadian industry thanks to their many advantages over other forms of transport.

The rail network is operating in the most common parts of Canada thanks to major rail companies like Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, and intermodal traffic is increasing day after day.

If you’re interested in learning more about the top 18 railway terminals in Canada, check out our blog post to learn about the best rail terminals in Canada.

Wondering how you can make rail shipping a reality for your business?

With RailGateway, Canada rail freight shipping has never been easier. Contact our experts to know our intermodal rail services or request a rail freight quote here.

For more tips on getting started with intermodal rail transport, visit our blog!

Getting Started with Rail Intermodal Transport

This post was last updated on March, 6th 2022

Most Canadian businesses are familiar with the term “intermodal transport” as a means to transport goods throughout the country. But what many companies may not realize is that intermodal transportation can help Canadian businesses save money, reduce their carbon footprint, and increase productivity.

This blog post will discuss the who, what, and why of intermodal transport.

Table of contents

  1. Intermodal Transportation and Intermodal Shipping Services Explained
    • Intermodal transportation: A quick definition
    • How does intermodal transportation work?
    • The difference between multimodal transport and intermodal transportation
  2. The 4 Types of Intermodal Transportation
    • Truck transport intermodal
    • Rail intermodal transportation
    • Airfreight intermodal
    • Sea or Ocean freight intermodal transport
  3. Intermodal transportation: The benefits every business owner should know
    • Reduced transportation costs
    • Increased Efficiency
    • Increased Reliability
    • Environmental Friendliness
    • Reduced Inventory Levels
    • Increased Security
    • Time Savings
intermodal transport signal light at train platform tracks

Intermodal Transportation and Intermodal Shipping Services Explained

The intermodal transportation industry is booming, and for a good reason. It’s not just the low transportation costs that make intermodal rail transport so appealing to businesses; it’s also more efficient and reliable.

Most Canadians know intermodal transport as truckload or rail transportation. But a lack of knowledge, outdated metrics, and misconceptions about intermodal transport have combined to suppress its market value – making it a genuinely untapped market for businesses.

Intermodal transport: A quick definition

Intermodal transportation is the method of transporting cargo via intermodal containers between two or more modes of transport.

The advantage is that the handling of goods reduces significantly. This is because, with intermodal freight transport, the container is the unit of transportation rather than the cargo. The container is loaded once and then travels by road, rail, or ship to its destination.

How does intermodal transportation work?

The intermodal transport process begins on a truck or railcar, where cargo is unloaded and placed into an intermodal container.

These containers are then transferred to the intermodal terminal via ocean freight or vice versa. When arriving at the final destination, they’re offloaded for domestic shipping and delivery by rail and trucking companies.

The difference between multimodal transport and intermodal transportation

A common misconception is that intermodal transport and multimodal transportation are the same.

When a container is moved via multiple modes of transportation without being opened, it’s called intermodal.

But if goods inside are opened and transferred to another mode of transportation, it becomes known as multimodal transport.

The 4 Types of Intermodal Transport Modes

  1. Truck transport intermodal
  2. Rail intermodal transportation
  3. Airfreight intermodal
  4. Sea or Ocean freight intermodal transport

Road transport intermodal

Truckload shipping is a method of transporting goods overland. A designated trucking company is generally hired for moving freight from one point to another quickly and efficiently, often between cities or provinces within Canada.

As road transport is more flexible, trucks are often employed for the “last mile transport,” corresponding to the journey’s pick-up or final destination.

Intermoda rail transport

Rail intermodal is the process of loading cargo onto railcars at origin and unloading it at the destination.

It’s often used when moving goods over long distances and offers a cost-effective alternative to truck intermodal freight shipping services.

Airfreight intermodal

Air intermodal is transporting cargo by air from the origin point to the airport for transfer into an aircraft or vice versa.

Maritime transport

Sea and ocean intermodal means transporting goods by boat from one point to another.

It’s an eco-friendly way for a company to reduce its carbon footprint and save them money on fuel costs compared to trucking but not necessarily in comparison with rail.

Intermodal transportation: The benefits every business owner should know

1. Reduced transportation costs

The use of intermodal containers allows for cargo consolidation and eliminates the need for multiple handling. This reduces the number of labour hours required and fuel consumption and emissions.

2. Increased Efficiency

Loading and unloading containers is faster than loading and unloading cargo from trucks or railway wagons. This is due to the standardization of containers and the use of container handling equipment.

3. Increased Reliability

The intermodal transportation network is far more reliable than road transport. Trucks can break down, traffic jams occur, and weather conditions disrupt deliveries. But a well-run intermodal transport system is rarely affected by such incidents.

4. Environmental Friendliness

Sea and intermodal transport are the most environmentally-friendly options for transporting goods over long distances. Road transport is not as fuel-efficient as intermodal and generates more emissions.

5. Reduced Inventory Levels

Using intermodal transportation can help companies reduce their inventory levels, as stock can be transported more quickly and efficiently using the combined transport network.

6. Increased Security

Intermodal transportation offers a high level of security for cargo. Containers are sealed at the point of loading and only opened at the destination, minimizing the risk of theft or damage to the goods.

7. Time Savings

Intermodal transportation can save companies time, as goods can be transported more quickly and efficiently using the combined transport network.


Intermodal transport is a great way to reduce shipping costs for any company. It can also increase efficiency and reliability by moving cargo quickly, reliably, and cost-effectively.

The intermodal transportation network is far more reliable than road transport as trucks break down or get stuck in traffic jams, whereas intermodal freight doesn’t have that problem.

In addition, intermodal transportation is environmentally friendly and can reduce a company’s inventory levels.

Security-wise, intermodal freight containers are sealed and only opened at the destination to minimize any thefts or damage during transport.

Finally, time savings are perhaps one of the most essential benefits companies can reap from intermodal transport.

All in all, intermodal freight transportation is a great way to move cargo and should be taken into serious consideration for any business looking to ship goods over long distances.

Are you looking for a comprehensive intermodal rail quote? Contact one of our experts today and save.