The 13 Downfalls of Intermodal Transportation

There are many benefits to intermodal transportation. It creates jobs in industries that depend on shipping goods and is a cost-effective and efficient means of transporting products across Canada and beyond our borders.

But there are some downsides too. Intermodal transport can be noisy and cause air pollution when trucks use diesel fuel. And while trains might be more environmentally friendly than other modes of transportation, they are less flexible because railroad tracks are fixed in one location.

In this blog post, we’ll talk frankly about the cons of intermodal freight transportation and how and when rail intermodal shipping should be considered.

Let’s dive in.

What are the disadvantages of intermodal transportation?

1. Speed

Speed is often a disadvantage of intermodal freight transportation. Customers want their products shipped quickly, but intermodal transport is often much slower than other types of freight transport like air and ground.

2. Lack of reliability

Due to its multiple modes of transport, intermodal freight transportation has a decreased level of reliability for companies across the board. When there are multiple intermodal shippers involved, the chances of something “breaking” along with the intermodal journey increases, and reliability can suffer as a result.

3. High infrastructure costs

Higher infrastructure costs often cause higher service rates for companies that use intermodal transportation. This is especially true when the use of cranes or other heavy-duty equipment is required to move full load containers.

Intermodal containers have lowered costs and made it easier for shippers to transport their products by standardizing how they’re packaged, but require they are handled by industrial-sized cranes which could be scarce outside major ports cities.

4. The complexity of the intermodal operation

Intermodal transportation is a complex system with many moving parts and without proper service design parameters in place, can become a messy process to clean up afterward.

5. Delivery frequency and intermodal transportation timeliness

Intermodal carriers tend to be less frequent than other types of freight carriers like ground and air. This can cause transportation problems if a customer’s demand is not able to keep up with the limitations of intermodal shipments.

However, with a little planning, a lack of timeliness and urgency can save in the long run.

6. Cargo handling of restricted or prohibited products

Some items are either not allowed to be shipped via intermodal transportation or can only be transported if they’re taken apart and reassembled once reaching their destination.

This makes shipping of hazardous materials difficult, as well as some raw building materials that need to be processed prior to being used on the construction site.

7. Damage during the intermodal shipping process

In most cases, damage can be avoided with proper loading and handling procedures. These procedures can be very difficult to manage in container shipping because of the lack of communication between railcar, yard worker, and truck driver.

Building strong partnerships with the right people is crucial for a successful freight transportation process. When you work together, your shipment will be delivered on time and in good condition!

The best way to minimize risk among all parties involved? Starts by having an engaged intermodal solutions team behind the scenes who knows what they’re doing.

At RailGateway we’ll make sure that everything goes as planned throughout this complex but critical intermodal shipping journey. From origin through to the final destination so that not only are deadlines met, but also customer expectations.

Intermodal freight transportation benefits can often be outweighed by its disadvantages when it comes to damage during the freight shipping process. With the correct logistics company on your side, a single point of contact can help to ensure that everything goes as planned and your freight is delivered on time.

If this sounds like what you’re looking for, contact RailGateway today to learn how we are able to do all of this and more.

8. Grievous goods transportation within Canada (environmental hazards)

It’s important to understand that not all dangerous goods are prohibited for transport via road or rail. The rules regarding what hazardous products are allowed vary depending on whether they are transported by highway, rail, or both transport modes.

A product may be allowed for transport as an exception (that means the shipper fills out documentation and seeks permission) if it fits within a series of conditions:

1. The product, although dangerous, has been packaged correctly by the manufacturer;

2. The gross mass of all dangerous products shipped is less than 330 lbs (150kg)

3. It is permitted for transport by other modes of transportation.

4. The dangerous goods being transported are in a quantity or concentration available to the general public.

The two main organizations that regulate the transport of hazardous materials are Transport Canada and the U.S Department of Transportation.

These organizations publish a number of regulations that must be followed in order to safely transport dangerous goods between jurisdictions.

9. Seasonal weather, traffic, congestion and other environmental factors

Intermodal freight transportation receives a lot of attention because of concerns about road congestion and traffic safety.

And because infrastructure capacity is limited, traffic flow disruptions (such as collisions, congestion, or road maintenance) might result in delays and complications in any transportation strategy.

Rail infrastructure is becoming increasingly important as the preferred alternative for shipping goods between locations, especially those that require intermodal transport.

It’s easy to see why: trains can move heavy and oversized cargo that would otherwise be unsafe on roads; rail networks are less susceptible to environmental factors such as rain or snow than roadways and they often go through areas that are under-served by road infrastructure.

10. Limited options for smaller shipments

For smaller or LTL (less than truckload) shipments, options for working with intermodal providers may be limited.

The smaller the shipment, the less likely it will be that an Intermodal provider will have a candidate to move it. It may require multiple stops, making delivery times more lengthy than FTL options.

However, Intermodal providers are working hard to provide customers with more flexible service offerings – which is good news for those who need flexibility.

11. Port congestion

Port congestion is a big concern for Intermodal freight shipping and international trade. Container ships floating waiting for port access, threats of driver strikes, are all too common from an industry under huge strain due to increased transport costs and a global pandemic.

To improve on this, some Intermodal providers are offering more innovative Intermodal transport options, including Intermodal transfers within the port environment itself to maximize terminal space and decongest container yards.

12. Interference with other modes of transport

Because of their size, Intermodal trains take up a lot of room.

As Intermodal traffic increases, it creates more logistical complexity with railways having to navigate around Intermodal trains on shared lines.

Since Intermodal is so effective at moving goods quickly, this may cause interruptions of other rail services. This can have a negative impact on commercial operations that are reliant on the logistics industry for their deliveries.

13. Concerns about Intermodal service quality

The Intermodal transportation industry could be seen as a price-competitive market; carriers tend to focus on low prices and lower margins in order to win business and stay competitive.

The challenge for Intermodal customers has been positive customer perception and confidence in Intermodal transport delivery standards without negatively impacting cost savings or price competitiveness.

Through innovation in technology, Intermodal carriers have been working hard to raise the customer service standards of Intermodal transportation.

Pros and Cons of Intermodal Transport

Benefits of intermodal freight shipping

There are three major benefits that come with the use of intermodal shipments. The first and foremost benefit that is to be considered when it comes to this type of transport is the cost savings.

The decision to invest in goods and services for intermodal means saves both time and money, which in turn leads to more efficient product delivery.

A further added benefit is sustainability. This is because when one mode of transportation such as rail or ship malfunctions, the other mode will be able to act as backup, thereby reducing any possible damage done to goods.

For a complete list of benefits visit our post ‘Getting Started with Intermodal Transport: The 7 Benefits Beyond What You’ve Heard

The downfall of an intermodal transportation system

It is not uncommon for individuals who want to take advantage of the benefits that come with this type of intermodal transportation mode to lose money.

This occurs when there’s a delay in the delivery time of goods or when working with an inexperienced rail transport partner.

With RailGateway as your intermodal freight shipper, you’re guaranteed unparalleled service that saves you money while providing a reliable solution for all of your supply chain needs.

Our extensive network provides a single point of contact to develop the most extensive and comprehensive rail program for our clients. And with over 40 years of combined rail experience are rates are unmatched across Canada.

The Importance of Intermodal Transportation

Besides low transportation costs, fuel efficiency, and the positive environmental impact that rail transportation and intermodal transportation services offer, planning and executing large-scale projects is also a huge plus when considering an intermodal shipping process.

In 2019, the Canadian rail industry carried more than 332 million tonnes of freight and assisted in the delivery of $205 billion worth of Canadian products to markets all around North America and throughout the world through a network of intermodal terminals (rail, ship, and truck).

With some of the most competitive rail transportation costs in the world, Canadian businesses (and as a happy side-effect, consumers) saved billions of dollars with intermodal freight transportation.

Multimodal Transportation and Intermodal Transport Mode explained

Intermodal freight transport, which combines multiple modes of transit into a single journey, is critical to the delivery process. It enables accurate routing and reduces handling costs.

While only using one carrier can provide the most efficient transportation method while also reducing paperwork, sometimes it’s preferable to use several different transport carriers for optimum overall shipping cost but with greater logistic coordination work.

Multimodal Transportation is the term used to describe the transport of goods using two or more modes. The carriers involved in an intermodal transportation chain should be compatible with each other so that they can deliver items safely and efficiently together. While trucking companies are common partners for railroads, truck carriers are also linked with steamships to increase flexibility.

How to Choose the Right Mode of Transport for Your Needs

Intermodal shipping has always been a difficult decision to make. You have to take into account the pros and cons of all transportation modes, including road freight transport, rail, river transportation, and airfreight.

Factors you need to take into account when making the choice between intermodal shipping logistics companies are:

– Availability of raw materials for various modes of transportation.

– Economical properties, fuel efficiency, modal systems of each mode.

– Geographical access of all intermodal providers.

– Security of cargo during the transportation process.

– Ease of logistics.

When making the choice to switch to intermodal freight shipping or rail freight shipping, you need to take into account all the factors above and compare them with the benefits offered by each model.

Before switching to using intermodal freight shipping or rail freight shipping, your company must have a good understanding of the financial aspects of using each model.

For example, if you ship commercially sensitive or high-value shipments that need to be transported quickly, then air freight transport might be best for your business due to its ability to move products at high speeds.

If you’re shipping large quantities of goods, then it might be better for your business to use intermodal rail shipping due to its large capacity which can provide significant savings.

Another important factor when choosing between intermodal shipping and rail freight transportation is the security aspect of transporting your goods.

If your company needs high-security transport, then modes such as sea or road transport might be better than modes such as air transport, where security can sometimes be compromised.

Switching to using intermodal freight shipping or rail freight shipping could benefit your business in many ways.

When should you consider using rail freight for shipping your products across Canada?

Rail freight services are utilized by a wide range of clients and transport a diverse variety of items and commodities. Power generating companies, construction companies, retailers, and fruit wholesalers are all frequent users of rail freight services.

Railways play a strategic role in Canada’s economy and are the most efficient and dependable form of transportation, moving 70% of the nation’s surface goods.

The railways are an important part of Canada’s history and were instrumental in the growth and development of the country. Canada’s geography makes the railways an invaluable resource for moving cargo from one part of the country to another and especially over long distances.

Curious if making the switch to rail is right for your business? Contact one of our RailGateway intermodal shipping experts today for more information on how rail can help reduce costs.

The shipping industry continues to baffle the average consumer. There are so many modes of transportation which makes it hard to determine what mode will be the most cost-efficient, economical, and safe.

The world of intermodal and multimodal transportation is no different. It can be confusing to know what options are available and if they will meet your specific company’s needs.

Choosing the right mode of transport is difficult for any business. If you’re not sure if switching to using either modal service would help improve efficiency in your company, feel free to contact our team of rail experts who are ready and waiting to answer any questions or concerns regarding this topic.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Top 7 Intermodal Transportation Trends That Matter in 2022

What’s happening in the world of intermodal transportation in 2022? Here are seven trends that will shape the industry.

Whether you’re just starting out in logistics or you’ve been working in the field for years, it’s important to stay informed about these changes. Keep reading to learn more!

Intermodal freight transportation back on the rise

The intermodal freight transportation industry has seen its fair share of ups and downs. But Intermodal transportation is on the upward climb.

According to a report on ResearchAndMarkets.com, the global intermodal transportation market is expected to register a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 8.27% over forecast between 2020 to 2025.

So what does that mean for logistics professionals? Here are seven intermodal transportation trends that will matter in 2022. Keep an eye on them!

What’s trending in Intermodal Transport

Trend #1: Advances in Sustainability and Greener technology

Probably the most exciting trend is the advancement and development of battery-electric trains. Intermodal freight companies are racing to bring the first electric Intermodal train to market – for both intercity and intermodal transportation services.

In November 2021, CN Railway purchased Wabtec’s FLXdrive battery-electric freight locomotive, the first 100-percent battery heavy-haul engine for the region in support of CN’s sustainability objectives.

This new technology is an essential building block in moving toward a lower carbon future.

Trend #2: Better tracking on existing freight transportation systems and more visibility

With intermodal shipments on the rise and outdated systems falling behind, electronic scanning technology to make the shipping process faster and more efficient will become more prominent.

A demand for a more efficient shipment of goods has motivated the rail industry to improve operations by implementing precision scheduled railroading (PSR).

Intermodal freight companies need to keep up with these changes for the sake of their customers and business growth. Real-time or live tracking, tracking with hands-on video, and GPS reporting are all up-and-coming or evolving.

Intermodal software can help Intermodal freight operators manage load boards, track incoming shipments, update drivers on the status of their cargo, and even allow customers to track their shipments online.

Best of all? Intermodal software is often cloud-based or SaaS (software-as-a-service)

Trend #3: Innovation in technology and intermodal services

Intermodal transportation providers are investing in new technologies to offer never-seen-before services.

CN Rail’s (Canadian National Railway) partnership with Google Cloud to deliver an enhanced customer service experience has helped modernize railway services in Canada.

And the adoption of new technologies like Positive Train Control (PTC), designed to address human error, is ushering in an exciting new era of efficiency and safety for US railroads – source Association of American Railroads (AAR), Assistant VP Luisa Fernandez-Willey

Trend #4: Port congestion

Global freight forwarders are bracing themselves for another year of backlogs … or are they?

According to Greg Knowler of JOC.com (The Journal of Commerce Online) despite recent carrier “hype” over persistent congestion levels, rising prices and interest rates might slow down consumer demand and result in a rapid drop in global container shipping demand.

… there will be no shortage of solutions or surprises for the market this upcoming year.

Looking to move your freight from Ontario out West? Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, which ever city we can help.

With over 40 years of experience, RailGateway is the number one choice in Canada for Full Load Intermodal freight transportation. Request your FREE no-obligation quote here. Let’s help you save today.

Trend #5: Transportation companies embracing B2B eCommerce

B2B eCommerce is the most efficient way for companies to connect with each other online. And Intermodal B2B eCommerce allows smaller companies to share orders and take advantage of bulk purchasing.

Trend #6: Driver Shortages

An ongoing truck driver shortage, a declining workforce from retirement and from those who can’t afford to drive – is causing a worry in the Intermodal industry.

In order for Intermodal companies to stay profitable, they need to be able to transport goods as quickly as possible. The truck driver shortage makes that nearly impossible.

Coyote.com reports that the industry is seeing a -38% in truck driver posting activity.

Trend #7: Investment in warehousing operations

As Intermodal companies expand their Intermodal services an increasing number are investing in Intermodal warehouses to meet customer demand for last mile delivery.

This will provide improved quality of service, cost savings and improved end-to-end Intermodal freight management.

Intermodal transportation providers are preparing themselves for the future by investing in new technologies and embracing B2B eCommerce.

These changes will help Intermodal freight operators manage load boards, track incoming shipments, update drivers on the status of their cargo, and even allow customers to track their own shipments online.

As global freight forwarders brace themselves for another year of backlogs, Intermodal companies are looking for solutions to keep up with rising prices and interest rates.

Whatever surprises the market has in store this upcoming year, RailGateway is here to help you save. Request your FREE no-obligation quote today!

Intermodal Services Explained

When it comes to the shipping industry, there are various ways to transport goods from place A to place B. However, as data has shown us, the most efficient method for cargo transportation is through intermodal transportation. What is intermodal transportation? How does it work? And when should businesses use it? 

To put it simply, you have a container on a ship, train, or truck. That’s intermodal transportation. But why does that matter? There are multiple modes of transport and combinations thereof.

Intermodal transportation is efficient because it takes advantage of the best features of each mode. A truck can drive on land, while a ship can transport cargo internationally, and a train provides the ability to move heavy-weight cargo over long distances quickly. 

When thinking about transportation this way, intermodal transportation is essentially an entire industry within an industry. Transportation is the backbone of most industries, so it’s important to understand how intermodal transportation works if you are in business.

Types of Intermodal Services 

1. Door to Door Intermodal Services 

Door-to-door (D2D) shipping involves picking up the product at the vendor’s doorstep and delivering it to the recipient’s doorstep. D2D services typically operate between a limited number of pick-up and delivery locations.

D2D intermodal Shipping provides combinations of services and modes of transport for an integrated door-to-door service. For example, a product may be shipped by truck or rail to a local depot, where it’s consolidated with other consignments destined for the same area before being loaded onto a ship. 

The vessel might then stop at other major ports to pick up consignments for an inland area before being delivered to the final destination. This term also covers a combination of services and other transportation modes that allow consistent end-to-end delivery.

To provide this door-to-door service, shippers and carriers often enter into a contract known as a “through bill of lading,” which defines all aspects of how the shipment is handled. The document serves as a contract of carriage between a shipping company and the carrier. 

2. Terminal Direct Intermodal Service

Direct intermodal service involves both the terminal and an intermodal yard. This is typical of a direct point-to-point or loop route with ISO containers or trailers loaded at shippers’ premises, transported to an intermodal terminal, and then delivered by rail or motor carriers to another location.

The most significant advantage of direct service is that it affords cargo owners to have their goods delivered directly from customer premises onto trains and trucks without any intervening transfer operations by shippers themselves. This reduces handling costs for both the railroad and its customers. It also provides flexibility in that if market conditions warrant, the railroad can substitute truck service when train schedules are interrupted.

Direct intermodal rail service is generally available in most areas served by Class I and Class II railroads in Canada. Intermodal shippers submit their load information to a central computer dispatch system that coordinates shipments, improving planning and scheduling capabilities.

3. Domestic Intermodal Service

Domestic intermodal service denotes the domestic movement of a container or trailer, using various modes of transportation and at least one connecting carrier.

Domestic intermodal service begins when the shipping customer delivers the cargo to a local pick-up location, such as a warehouse or rail yard. The carrier then reloads the cargo at a rail yard, port, airport, etc. This load is then delivered to a second location using another method of transportation. 

4.International Intermodal Service 

International intermodal service means global movement of a container or trailer, using more than one mode of transportation and at least one connecting carrier.

International intermodal service begins when the shipping customer delivers the cargo to a local pick-up. The carrier then reloads the cargo at a rail yard, port, airport, etc. This load is then delivered to a second location using another method of transportation such as ocean intermodal freight and delivery via truck to its final destination.

Pros and Cons of Using Intermodal Transport

While intermodal transportation is the most efficient method for shipping cargo, there are still some cons to using this type of transport. Here are some pros and cons of using intermodal transportation as a whole:

Pros

  • Efficient for shipping cargo of any size, shape, or weight.
  • This transportation mode reduces the carbon footprint of shipping by taking advantage of trains and ships which already exist.
  • Containers are often fitted with security devices to keep cargo safe.
  • Intermodal container transportation is cheaper especially considering the long distances covered.
  • Convenient for people who deal in international trade; reduces the time it takes for products to reach their destination.
  • Containers can be used as self-contained storage that can withstand different environmental conditions.

Cons

  • There are high structural costs–ships, trains, and trucks are expensive.
  • Requires long-term planning to ensure that shipping schedules are met.
  • Requires large supply chains, complex financial transactions, complex service relationships, etc.

The Nature of Intermodal Transportation in Canada

Transport is integral to the Canadian economy. Goods transport has increased substantially because of North America’s open economies and Canada’s access to foreign markets. Goods represent a substantial part of the transportation process.

Intermodal transportation is an integral part of the transport picture in Canada. Containers and trailers play a major role in the domestic and international movement of goods by offering advantages such as flexibility, reliability, and economies of scale.


Companies are beginning to adopt intermodal transportation due to its benefits over other forms of transportation. This intermodal movement has a positive impact on the economy in Canada and abroad. And as global online trade and commerce grow, intermodal transportation and shipping will be a crucial element in the growth and success of the logistics industry.

Intermodal Contracts for Beginners

When you think about freight transportation, two terms come into mind; intermodal and multimodal transportation. Both transport methods involve moving your shipment from the origin to the destination using several methods in between.

These transportation methods can include rail, ship, barge, truck, or a combination of transport carriers. And can also mean different carriers were used to transport the goods at every stage of the journey.

Not only do you have to pick the ideal intermodal shipping process for your firm, but you must also select the best intermodal contract rates available. Let us help you decide.

What is Intermodal Freight Transportation?

Intermodal transportation refers to two or more transportation modes to move cargo from one place in the original country to another destination, often in another country. The unique characteristic of the intermodal shipping process is that every step of the process has a different provider with a separate contract.

Several businesses use the intermodal shipping method to get their cargo to the final destination. One of the reasons for choosing intermodal pricing is because it reduces freight costs. It also reduces the amount of handling on your cargo throughout the trip. The method also allows drivers to deal with more loads at reduced periods.

The critical difference between intermodal transportation and truckload shipping is the harmonic vibrations. The vibration on the rail transportation segment can move the freight vertically, laterally, and longitudinally. If your cargo is not braced or blocked properly, the harmonic vibrations will move it, unlike truckload transportation. The movement can cause overweight problems for the shippers and lead to damages.

Blocking and bracing your cargo correctly isn’t complex. It can be as simple as using some wood blocks and the right size of nails.

Is intermodal shipping service complicated?

There is a misunderstanding that the cargo transportation method is complicated because of the many steps involved in moving cargo. However, the process has become less cumbersome and more efficient.

Intermodal providers use data analysis to make transportation adjustments on their end, or they can make recommendations on improving the process from your end. Additionally, the intermodal provider will evaluate key performance indicators to help you make critical improvements to your business.

Benefits of Using the Intermodal Freight Transportation

  • It is a cheaper than truckload
  • Enhanced security
  • optimizes the truck and rail efficacy
  • Minimizes highway congestion
  • Sustainable
  • Easy to monitor
  • Uses environmentally friendly carriers

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) outlines the journey while using intermodal transport starting from the manufacturer where you fix the container to a chassis. It’s loaded with freight, and a dray motor carrier drives it to the origin railroad ramp. When the container gets to the intermodal ramp, it’s moved from the chassis and loaded onto a well car.

The intermodal container then moves across the railroad network using the train cars until the final destination. Once the container gets to the destination, a truck carries and delivers it to its final destination.

Types of Intermodal Services 

Intermodal services come in two types: Container-on-Flatcar (COFC) and Trailer-on-Flatcar (TOFC). In the latter, you place the Over-the-road trailer onto the well car.

COFC became prominent in the 1980s because of its cost-effectiveness to load four containers on a well car.

Common Issues Around Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal transportation comes with its advantages and disadvantages. However, some are not disadvantages but are misconceptions that people in the freight market share regarding the intermodal journey.

It’ll be best to evaluate the value that intermodal transportation adds to your business. Some of the misconceptions about intermodal transportation include:

Unreliable Service 

Shippers that are not conversant with the shipping method think of railroad transport as slow. However, the intermodal service is reputable for its timely deliveries that beat the truckload. Rail transit has precise schedules that ensure your freight gets to its destination on time. The railroad also has the advantage of consistent planning over a long time.

Long Times on Transit 

Unfortunately, intermodal freight transportation has been a slow method over time. The reputation is born from a belief from shippers that since the mode of transport is on the rail, it’ll feature the same transit that railcars have.

However, railroads are aware of their competition by truckload. So they strive to offer a different service using the intermodal method.

Intermodal transportation on a single railroad is the same as a truckload transit plus one day. If the intermodal freight is intertwined between two railroads, the transportation is the same as truckload transit plus another two days. Some intermodal lanes offer you the same transit that you get from truckload. Furthermore, unlike the truckload, the railroads will move even on weekends, meaning a slow transportation method is a misconception.

Loss and Damage 

One of the concerns that shippers have with a freight transportation method is the loss and damage of their cargo. It’ll be best if the transportation method offers optimum freight safety.

As mentioned earlier, the element of vibrations on the rail segment of intermodal can move the freight longitudinally, vertically, and laterally. If you don’t block and brace the cargo properly, the vibrations can damage and cause overweight issues.

Complicated

Another misconception regarding intermodal transportation is that it is complicated. The complication is seen in the various steps to get cargo from the origin to the final destination.

However, there is no complication as the transportation process has become efficient over time. Additionally, your transport provider will make the necessary adjustments to your strategy, or they can recommend how you can adjust to make the journey more effective. The recommendations come from data analysis, making them ideal for improving your business.


Intermodal freight transportation is an excellent option if you want to move your cargo from origin to its final destination. It is not uncommon to confuse intermodal and multimodal transport methods.

One of the key differences is that intermodal involves using different modes, including rail and truck transport. It can also involve various contracts at every step of the journey. The method is safe, reliable and will get your shipment to its final destination on time.

Intermodal News: Making Headlines This Year

The year 2021 has been a big one for Intermodal news. The intermodal industry has seen unprecedented change and innovation this past year, with many companies and organizations making headlines for their initiatives and accomplishments. 

From shipping container shortages to the cargo ship that broke international trade, there’s no denying that we’re living in an exciting time for intermodal news!

Intermodal News and Updates Impacting Your Business and the Intermodal Industry Today!

To keep up with all the newsworthy happenings, we’ve compiled a list of 10 things you might not know about Intermodal as it enters 2022.

There have been many stories about how people use this mode of freight transportation to get their goods from coast to coast.

There have also been articles about how it’s a tool for economic growth, sustainability, and improving public safety.

This post is dedicated to showing you some of the most notable headlines that made waves in the past year. We promise to keep it up to date and fresh.

intermodal containers stacked on top of one another

Domestic containers

A worldwide supply chain crisis has cut off everything from medical supplies to holiday presents, putting a new spin on shipping containers. Read the full post here.

Intermodal traffic

Railyards clog up as delays continue and port congestion worsens. Read more about it here.

Freight capacity

Prices surge, intermodal transportation capacity dips, read what’s making waves about logistics demand here.

Truck drivers shortage

Why limited supply has forced shippers to consider higher than average contract rates instead of spot rates. Reporter Max Garland has the full story here.

Intermodal volume and demand

2021 started strong, but September reports show a decrease in volume per IANA studies. Compare both here.

North American Intermodal news

US and Canada see a continued downward trend in intermodal transportation year over year. Click here for full details.

BNSF Railway headlines

BNSF and Wabtec begin testing in California on a battery-powered locomotive. Read more about it here.

Intermodal logistics beyond 2021

The future of intermodal operations and predictions for the next five years to come in railroad and truckload transport. Full article here.

Norfolk Southern in the news

Crew shortages, poorer service – Norfolk has its fair share of struggles in 2021. Read the full Trains.com article here.

Supply chains

Writer Edwin Lopez deep dives into five years of supply chain management and the lessons learned along the way. Click here to read more.


Are you looking to make a move over to rail shipping? RailGateway is Canada’s #1 choice in full load intermodal rail transport. Contact us today for a FREE no-obligation rail quote on how we can help you save.

Intermodal vs Truckload: Hiring the Right Delivery Method

The most important thing for you to know about intermodal vs truckload shipping carriers is that they are not made equal.

Intermodal freight carriers move goods from one mode of transportation to another without ever unloading them through intermodal containerization.

While OTR’s (over-the-road trucking carriers) transport full truckload shipments from origin to destination or warehouses to intermodal trains or depots.

Deciding which delivery method is suitable for your shipment can be difficult, but this blog post will help you make an informed decision.

The Key Differences Between Truckload Shipping and Intermodal Shipping?

You’ve probably heard this before, rail is cheaper than truck transport, but when does over-the-road trucking make more sense in a supply chain strategy?

Truckload shipping is ideal for time-sensitive shipments, high-value freight that will travel a short distance. Because truckload carriers’ schedules are more flexible, they can collect and deliver freight at more convenient times.

Intermodal transportation requires more planning and is ideal for high-volume shipments that aren’t time-sensitive and can travel a long distance without damage.

Because intermodal containers are the same size and can be lifted by a crane, it’s easy to transfer freight from one truck or train to another without unloading and reloading the cargo.

When to choose truckload?

  • More than 80 km (50 miles) from an intermodal ramp but less than 800 km or 500 miles to the final destination.
  • Urgent, last-minute, time-sensitive shipments where speed is the most important logistics factor.
  • Perishable goods or freight with/ in proper storage containers on short or demanding transit times.
  • Inconvenient intermodal ramp locations

When to choose intermodal?

  • You have a predictable intermodal shipment schedule that is frequent and where freight spend is the most important logistics factor.
  • Larger intermodal freight shipments with longer transit times or irregular/ unpredictable shipments that do not require urgent delivery.
  • Delivery distance is more than 800-1100 km or 500-700 miles.
  • A desire to offset carbon footprint or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Which option is best for your business? Here are three key factors to consider:

– Distance: How far will the freight travel?

– Size and weight: How large is the item being shipped, and what is the total weight?

– Convenience: What’s the delivery window?

Moving from Truckload to Intermodal Rail

Is intermodal cheaper than truckload?

In many cases, intermodal transportation is cheaper and more fuel-efficient than other logistic modes. But it’s not always the right fit or solution.

Contact one of our logistics experts to discuss your specific needs and see if intermodal is the right choice for you.

What is intermodal shipping?

Intermodal shipping is the movement or transportation of goods using more than one mode of transport (rail, truck, ship, air).

Curious if intermodal is right for your business? Read our post about when and why you should make the switch.

What is the difference between drayage and intermodal?

Both terms refer to the movement of goods. Drayage, the movement of cargo over a short distance. And intermodal, the complete shipment journey over a longer distance.

Please read our guide on intermodal terms and phrases everyone getting started with intermodal should know.

What is meant by truckload?

Truckload freight is cargo that fills a truck or part of a truck. The term usually applies to shipments too large to move by rail.

What does FTL or LTL mean in shipping terms?

FTL stands for full truckload, while LTL, less than a full truckload. This term references the cargo, goods, products, or raw materials.

Read our guide on picking the right shipping terms for your needs.


Moving from truckload to intermodal rail can be an expensive and time-consuming process.

Luckily, there are many affordable options for shipping that may work better.

If you’re considering moving your company over to a more environmentally friendly method of transporting goods by opting for the cheaper option of switching over to intermodal transportation, contact one of our logistics experts today!

We’ll help you find the best solution based on your needs and budget.

Canada’s Domestic Intermodal Shipping Industry. How Does Your Business Fit-in?

Canada’s domestic intermodal industry is one of its most vibrant industries. It was built on a foundation of good ideas and innovation, which continues with constant change and growth.

The domestic intermodal transportation industry has been steadily growing over the years and employs close to 1M people in Canada’s intermodal logistics sector alone.

And it’s not just limited to freight transport by truck and rail. Domestic services are available for ocean shipping and air cargo as well.

The domestic industry is a critical part of Canada’s economic growth. Here we’ll take a look at what domestic intermodal transportation is and how it can benefit your business.

The History of Domestic Intermodal Service in Canada

Domestic intermodal freight transport has been around in Canada since the early 19th century. Ten years after England established its first steam railway line, Canada’s first railway line was built in 1836.

Construction in Canada’s rail industry began to take off from there. The Grand Trunk Railway ran from Sarnia, Ontario, through Toronto and Montreal to Portland, Maine was built. And in 1854, the Great Western Railway completed a route between Niagara Falls and Detroit via Hamilton.

Oddly enough, the Intercolonial Railway, the largest network, never expected to profit. So when financial troubles hit during the first World War, the railroads’ system was merged into CN Rail (Canadian National Railways) and the debts inherited by the Canadian government-owned company. (source The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Canada’s rail intermodal volume is primarily used to move or ship dry bulk cargo such as coal and grain in standardized intermodal containers (ISO containers).

The first container train was operated by CN, carrying 200 intermodal containers from Montreal to Toronto in 1968.

Today, Canada’s domestic intermodal freight transport handles everything from cars to electronics to toys.

Intermodal Economic Growth in Canada and North America

In Canada, domestic freight is moved primarily by trucks (70%) and rail (30%). But the tables are turning towards a heavier reliance on rail transportation.

Intermodal traffic delays and backlogs, intermodal capacity constraints, driver shortages, increased transit time and delivery fees, port congestion and a global pandemic have contributed to the increased interest in rail’s market share.

The rail market is expected to accelerate at a CARG rate of 4%, and 33% of that growth will originate from North America. – Technavio.com

What is Domestic Intermodal Service?

Domestic intermodal service simply put is the domestic shipping of freight and can help companies expand and move their products quickly and more efficiently.

Companies in Canada with international trade will also find domestic intermodal services beneficial for their needs.

Domestic logistics can be used to move goods from one location in the country to another and between countries like the US and Mexico.

Canadian domestic shipments are typically handled by truck and rail transport. Trucking offers a more flexible solution for shorter distances, but both rail and trucking provide competitive rates and convenience when needed.

What Domestic Intermodal Service is Best for Me?

This depends on your needs. Also, on the volume of shipments you’re looking to ship/receive and to and from where.

If you’re looking for domestic transport by rail, finding a company that specializes in domestic shipping on your specific route is critical.

Domestic logistics operators can also provide customs brokerage and warehousing services, which can help your company save money.

Are you looking to ship from Ontario or Quebec out West? Contact one of our rail experts for a FREE no-obligation quote. We’re confident our rates will be within your budget.

According to Statistics Canada, domestic intermodal transport volumes are expected to grow over the next few years. This is good news for businesses who want to move their goods domestically, as this service will only become more efficient.

Domestic Intermodal Services Today and the Benefits They Offer You as a Shipper or Freight Forwarder

Recent changes to international trade have impacted domestic logistics, but domestic transportation still remains one of the most vibrant industries in Canada’s economy.

Domestic railway freight transportation is playing an ever-increasing role in transporting goods across the country.

Intermodal rail service offers advantages for moving goods over long distances, including reduced handling and inventory costs and improved security and on-time performance.

When you’re looking to ship your domestic freight, it’s important to find the right domestic intermodal service for your needs. It can be challenging to know where to start with so many options available.

That’s where we come in! RailGateway is Canada’s number one choice in full load intermodal rail transport with over 40+ years of experience shipping domestic freight by rail across Canada. 

We provide intermodal services for companies of all sizes in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC.

We have the knowledge and expertise to offer you domestic shipping by rail with excellent on-time service that goes above and beyond.

Intermodal logistics is a great way for businesses to decrease costs without reducing their level of service. Contact us today to find out how we can help your business.


Canadian domestic transportation history is one of the most vibrant industries in Canada, with constant change and growth over the years.

With domestic logistics playing an ever-increasing role in the movement of goods across Canada, businesses need to find out if this service will benefit their needs.

We’re confident that you’ll see how much value we can add to your company’s bottom line, just like so many others have before you!

Thank you for reading this article. We hope that it has been helpful to you as a reader.

A Comprehensive Look at the Differences of Intermodal and Multimodal Transportation

When it comes to delivering your goods to the other side of Canada or even to the other side of the world, shipping through several transportation modes comes naturally as the answer to overcome natural barriers, be cheaper or even faster.

However, did you know that there are several ways to proceed?

Let’s explore the differences between multimodal and intermodal shipping to see which is best for your needs!

What is Known as Multimodal Transportation?

The premises of multimodal transport

According to research work on “Multimodal Transport Law and Operations” produced by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, an early version of the multimodal concept was first introduced in the United Kingdom in the mid 19th century.

The Birmingham & Derby Railway company started to transfer rail containers to horse carriage as an alternative to the single-mode transport systems dominant at the time.

What is multimodal transportation nowadays?

Multimodal transportation, as its Latin etymology could let us think, is the use of several (“multi”) modes of transport (“modal”) to ship cargo from point A to a final destination.

Multimodal transport shipments are often managed by a multimodal transport operator (MTO), which are transportation companies that have access to different shipping modes of transportation.

Today, multimodal transportation is used extensively worldwide for both international and domestic freight movement because it offers significant cost savings compared with other methods of transporting goods over long distances or across borders to a different country.

What is the specificity of multimodal services?

In multimodal transportation services, there is only a single contract that covers the entire journey of the cargo from origin to destination.

This means the multimodal operator you will contract will handle the freight from A to Z as a single carrier.

What are examples of multimodal transport?

Multimodal shipping can include sea, rail, road, or air freight and ensure a port-to-door service.

What are the pros of multimodal shipping?

As the contract is handled by one carrier only, this service can sometimes lower transportation costs.

How so? Think about the fact that you can negotiate the total shipping cost and don’t have to pay the different logistics coordination rates of several carriers.

Other advantages of multimodal transport are ensuring better control over tracking, quality, and security. Indeed, you are not dealing with different providers here, so everything is more straightforward to handle and monitor.

Talking logistics now, the fact they have a clear organization and view of the pick-up and transfer of the goods from one mode of transportation to another can also show a faster delivery time. Multimodal transport coordination is just more streamlined and effective.

What about intermodal transportation?

What is intermodal shipping?

Well, if multimodal shipping offers a wide range of logistics services with several modes of transportation, know that the concept behind intermodal transportation must be closely linked to it!

Intermodal shipping is the transportation of goods using more than one mode of transport thanks to a single container, but this time, under several contracts.

Here too, the intermodal transport modes are diverse. They allow businesses to move their cargo through truck, rail, air, or sea freight with the help of multiple carriers.

What are the pros of intermodal shipping?

With intermodal transportation shipping, other advantages emerge from contracting several transport carriers.

Businesses often like intermodal services because they have more control over their shipments. They can choose which mode of transport to use and ensure their cargo ships in the most effective way.

Also, relying on multiple contracts allows you not to put all your eggs in one basket and be dependent on a single carrier. Here, you keep control over each leg of the shipment: If a carrier becomes problematic, you can quickly bounce back to find another solution.

This also means that you could eventually re-negotiate all your freight costs with each provider and maybe, get cheaper shipping bills. However, dealing with several carriers could also imply duplicate charges or services.

In addition, intermodal transport shipments are more secure and help businesses simplify inventory management by having a single container for all goods instead of multiple containers with different freight carriers.

Combined Transport Shipping Strategy: What to choose Between Intermodal and Multimodal Transportation?

In the end, what differs intermodal from multimodal transportation?

Intermodal transportation can actually be seen as a subset of multimodal transport.

Multimodal transport goes beyond the use of several modes of transportation. It offers an added value in coordination and organization as they can offer all shipping modes under a single contract.

What to choose for your shipping strategy?

Multimodal services are more comprehensive and cover all aspects from origin to destination. In other words, multimodal transport is the best way to go if you are looking for a one-stop-shop and low organization on your part when it comes to shipping your goods.

Intermodal transportation is a more tactical approach. You can monitor all aspects of the cargo flow and negotiate your own terms with several carriers.


In conclusion, intermodal or multimodal, that’s your choice to make! There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on your organization’s needs and the resources you have to handle the logistics to go over several contracts.

Another solution we haven’t talked about is hiring an agent who will work on several shipping freight contracts for you.

If you’re ready to make the jump and conquer the other side of Canada with your products, make sure to request a quote on our website for our full load intermodal rail shipping services! From Toronto to Vancouver, we have got you covered.

Transloading Vs. Intermodal Shipping: What is the Difference?

Shipping has changed quite a bit in the last few years. It’s no longer just about moving products from one place to another; transport has evolved into an entirely new realm of complexity.

Today, we will discuss the handling of the merchandise when it comes to a shipment requiring the use of different modes of transportation.

This post will then explore transloading vs. intermodal shipping, helping you make an informed decision on how to transport your goods!

What is transloading?

Transloading is the action of transferring goods from one mode of transportation to another by unloading the cargo and reloading it into a different container, rail car, or truck.

For a look at CP’s transloading facilities and locations, visit their site here.

CN Rail has over 31 strategically located distribution centers. Click here to see their interactive map for more details.

What about transloading facilities?

A transload facility specifically handles the transloading process to load and unload cargo out and onto containers, trucks, or rail cars and is often located near docks, rail yards, or airports.

What is transloading equipment?

There are particular transloading types of equipment used at transloading facilities that allow the handle of the process quickly, efficiently, and with low human labour involved. These machines include forklifts, cranes, rail car dumpers or conveyors.

What is a typical transloading process?

A typical example of transloading logistics would be:

Step 1: A loaded freight ship or train arrives at a transload facility with a specific container full of goods.

Step 2: The cargo of this container is then directly transferred or unloaded into a storage warehouse and then reloaded into a different transportation mode (which can be a container, a rail car, or a truck) thanks to the transloading equipment and the support of handling.

Step 3: Usually, that second or last transportation mode would be a truck for final delivery.

Step 4: The transloading process is complete once the goods reach their final destination: customers or distribution center, ready for the market!

Note: For step 2, if the cargo can be transferred directly to the final destination truck or container, the delivery will be much faster and avoid supply chain delays. Remember, if the shippers can keep the supply chains moving, the better, cheaper, and safer it is for you as a customer.

What type of merchandise can be transloaded?

Transloading can be used for different types of cargo. From bulk goods to nonperishable food or from construction and raw materials to non-regular sized items, many companies can use this method.

The best way to know if you can ship your items, including transloading services, is to ask your freight forwarder.

What does the transloading fee cover?

Be aware that a transload fee might be applied to your final shipping invoice if you have to deliver your merchandise to multiple locations.

What does that stand for? This fee will cover the cost of de-consolidating the shipment at a warehouse and reloading them into different trucks sent to various destinations.

Intermodal or Transloading services for your freight shipment?

Now that we’ve defined transloading, let’s talk about intermodal shipping and its differences.

What is intermodal shipping?

Intermodal transport refers to the shipment of goods using more than one mode of transportation during the shipping process.

This could mean transporting a product by truck to a train station and then loading it onto a rail car for transport until final destinations.

But one of the main features of this shipping solution is that the load will remain in the same container all the way.

What is the difference between intermodal freight shipping and transloading?

The difference between them lies in how product movement happens at transload facilities:

In transloading, the product is unloaded from one transportation mode and reloaded into another by using or not using the original container.

With intermodal freight shipping, the cargo will remain in the same intermodal container until it reaches its final destination. It’s the containers themselves that will be moved from one mode of transportation to another.

When to use intermodal or transloading?

Now that you know the difference, it is easier to see when each service would be best for your company’s needs.

If you have a shipment that includes different destinations, transloading might be a better option so that the cargo can be handled more efficiently and overall have more flexibility.

However, a significant disadvantage of transloading is that the container must be opened and the cargo handled and moved. This means the risks for damages, thefts, and delays are also higher.

Intermodal freight shipping can handle almost any type of cargo and is a great solution when you can ship a full container for yourself from one point to another while also being environmentally friendly with fewer emissions into our atmosphere. Since the cargo will be in the same container, it is also easier to track and manage.

If you’re looking for a fast, cheap, and easy shipment solution and your cargo fits into a single container, then intermodal is the better option.


At the end of the day, each case is different, and the best way to handle your shipments will also depend on your type of products, weight, sizes, routes, ports and much more.

To define the best solution for you, we invite you to contact us. We will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with a quote for your intermodal shipment across Canada!

Intermodal Definition: Your Go-To Guide for Terminology and Definitions

Do you know the definition of intermodal? If not, then this is the post for you. This handy go-to guide will help define and explain all the terms that anyone would need to know when it comes to intermodal transportation. 

Whether you’re a seasoned pro at intermodal shipping or just getting started in freight logistics, or want a better understanding of what intermodal means, read on! The Intermodal Container: Everything you want and need to know about Containerization

The RailGateway Dictionary to Intermodal Transportation

19 definitions for anyone getting started in intermodal freight shipping.

One of the most challenging parts of intermodal freight transportation is that there are so many terms and acronyms to know. This can make it hard for anyone, no matter how experienced they are, to understand what’s going on. 

That’s why we created this intermodal glossary. We define all the words you need to know when working with intermodal freight transport.

* The following definitions are not in alphabetical order but rather mimic the flow of an intermodal freight shipping process.

Intermodal

The word intermodal refers to a transportation method that involves more than one form of transport during a single trip.

Intermodal broker

An intermodal broker is a company that helps shippers and receivers connect with carriers to move goods. They act as the go-between, facilitating the process and taking a commission or fee while providing discounts and preferred rates.

Freight forwarder

A freight forwarder is a company that books shipments and manages intermodal transport.

They manage intermodal shipping logistics by providing access to rail lines, trucks, cargo vessels, and warehouses. A good intermodal partner will also provide you with regular updates on your shipment and provide additional services such as insurance for your cargo.

Consignee

The party to which freight is delivered. The consignor delivers the freight to the consignee (recipient).

Consignor (shipper)

The individual or organization shipping freight to a consignee.

Containerization

Containerization is a means of intermodal freight transport that uses container-sized units for handling cargo. This system allows intermodal transportation to function more smoothly.

Intermodal container

Intermodal containers are intermodal freight transport units that can be used across different modes. They’re reusable and interchangeable and come in a range of standard sizes. The most common intermodal container is the 20 ft equivalent unit (TEU).

RaileGateway specializes in 53′ and 40′ high cube dry van intermodal containers. Request your free quote here on how we can help you save on your rail transportation costs.

Container interchanges

A container interchange transfers one or more containers from a rail car onto another rail car, moving as part of the same train line.

Breakbulk

The procedure of dividing goods into multiple shipments for various delivery locations.

Intermodal ramp

An intermodal ramp is a loading dock at an intermodal facility that allows cargo transfer between trucks and trains.

Intermodal vehicle

An intermodal vehicle is a truck (road vehicle) or train that is specially designed for intermodal transport and may include features like: multiple axles, front or rear-mounted cranes, or multiple floors, allowing for double-stacked containers.

Full truckload shipment

In the trucking industry, a full truckload shipment is one in which the whole vehicle is used to transport a given quantity of goods.

In intermodal rail transportation, full load is a shipment where a single shippers’ cargo is transported in the same container.

Less than truckload intermodal shipments

A less than truckload shipment is when the quantity of goods does not fill an entire truck or container (rail).

Last mile

The last mile delivery is the final leg of a product’s journey to the customer and is typically the most expensive.

Accessorial Charges

An accessorial charge is an additional fee included in an intermodal transport invoice by logistics companies for services over and above a standard pick-up.

They include but are not limited to storage, scale fees, and detention. Check out our blog post here for a complete guide to accessorial charges.

Drayage

This is the total cost of transporting intermodal freight containers a short distance and includes accessorial services and expenses such as receiving, loading, unloading, and other transport terminal and rail yard costs.

Dry bulk cargo

Dry bulk cargo in intermodal shipping involves the transportation of commodities such as coal and grain in large quantities. Other examples of dry bulk freight are sand, gravel, salt, sugar, cement, etc.

Raw materials

Raw material intermodal shipments often refer to dry bulk cargo.

Dangerous goods (Environmental Hazards)

A dangerous good is a cargo with special requirements regarding transport and packaging for safety reasons.

Good to Know Intermodal Transport Acronyms

(AAR) – The Association of American Railroads

(APGCI) – Asia–Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative Canada

(ATAC) – Air Transport Association of Canada

(BTS) – Bureau of Transportation Statistics

(CAGR) – Compound Annual Growth Rate

(COFC) – Container on a flatcar

(CTA) – Canadian Transportation Agency

(CTA) – Canadian Trucking Alliance

(FTA) – Free trade agreement

(FTL) – Full truckload

(IANA) – Intermodal Association of North America

(ISO) – International Organization for Standardization. ISO is technically not an acronym. It refers to the ancient Greek term “ísos,” which means equal or equivalent to. For a complete list of ISO general purpose containers, click here.

(LTL) – Less than a full truckload

(MTO) – Multimodal transport operator

(RAC) – Railway Association of Canada

(TAC) – Transportation Association of Canada

(TEU) – Twenty-foot equivalent unit. This is a calculation based on the measurements of a 20ft standard shipping container.

(THC) – Terminal handling charges

(TOFC) – Trailer on a flat car

FAQs

Why is it called intermodal?

The term intermodal is derived from the Latin words “inter” (meaning between) and “modus” (meaning way), making intermodal freight transport a way of moving goods between multiple modes of transportation.

What is the difference between intermodal and multimodal transport?

Multimodal transport is the transportation of goods using more than one mode of transport with a single carrier. While intermodal shipping specifically refers to shipments are handled by several different shipping companies.

What is intermodal shipping vs transloading?

Intermodal shipping is when containers are moved between trucks and trains to transfer goods. Transloading, on the other hand, involves moving individual items from one container to another between two or more modes.

What role does a cargo ship play in intermodal transportation?

Cargo ships are merchant vessels that carry goods, supplies and materials between ports handling international shipping trade between one country and another. Ocean carriers are often the first step in the receiver’s intermodal freight journey. Or as the last step in a sender fulfilling their shipping obligations.

Why is intermodal transport necessary for economic growth in the shipping industry?

From automobiles to food to luxury items such as toys and electronics are frequently delivered via ocean freight. Maritime shipping accounts for 53% of U.S. imports and 38 percent of U.S. exports—more than any other logistics shipping method. 

Once a shipment arrives in port, it is the role and responsibility of the intermodal carrier to move and distribute products and goods effectively to prevent congestion and delays.  

Want to know more about RailGateway? Looking for a competitive intermodal freight transportation quote? Request your FREE, no-obligation offer here.