The Power of Cross Canada Intermodal Shipping in 2024!!

Cargo container train Cross Canada Intermodal Shipping
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Francine Goulet

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Cross Canada Intermodal Shipping can be expensive because the country is very big. This is especially true if you need to ship things often. But there’s a way to save money and make shipping easier: intermodal shipping.

Intermodal shipping combines truck and train transport. This can be cheaper than just using trucks, especially for long distances. It can also be more reliable.

This guide will explain how intermodal shipping works and how you can use it to save money on shipping costs.

What is Intermodal Shipping?

CP Rail Shipping Containers

Cross Canada Intermodal Shipping

Intermodal transportation is a way to ship large items using special containers. These containers can be loaded onto trucks, trains, or ships without taking the items out. This makes shipping faster and safer because the items are handled less. It’s kind of like a shipping container taxi – it can jump between different transportation methods to get your stuff where it needs to go.

When Should You Pick Intermodal Shipping?

Shipping stuff? But when should I choose Intermodal Shipping? :

  • Small loads (under 25 tons) & deadlines:  Need to ship finished goods (like food or furniture) quickly? Consider using a truck!
  • Long distances (over 300 miles or 1 day by truck):  Going far? Trains are your friend! Especially for trips over 750 miles. They’re good for most things, except super valuable items.
  • Mid-value items: Got furniture, appliances, or recyclables to move? Trains are a great choice for these too!
  • Large cargo: moving a ton of stuff? Trains, ships, and trucks are working together to get your parcels delivered in fast and easy way.

Benefits of Intermodal Transport

The primary advantage of intermodal transportation lies in its ability to leverage the strengths of each transport method on offer. This translates to several benefits, including:

  • Cost-Effectiveness: 

Rail transportation is often the most economical option for long-distance inland cargo movement.

  • Efficiency:

Intermodal transport streamlines the process by minimizing cargo handling, leading to faster delivery times.

  • Environmental Sustainability: 

Utilizing trains and ships for long-distance transport reduces overall carbon emissions compared to solely relying on trucks. This massively increases its Sustainability over other methods.

  • Flexibility: 

Intermodal transportation offers a versatile solution for domestic and international cargo movement.

How Does Intermodal Shipping Work?

Intermodal transportation is a logistical method that utilizes multiple modes of transport to deliver goods. This process offers several advantages by leveraging the strengths of each transportation method. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the intermodal transport process:

  • Initial Loading:
  • An empty container arrives at the shipper’s location via truck.
  • The shipper or designated personnel meticulously load the goods into the container.
  • Once secured, the container remains sealed throughout the majority of the journey, minimizing cargo handling and potential damage.
  • Land Transportation:
  • The consolidated container is transported by truck over to an established road network. Which are then delivered to a pre-designated rail yard.
  • At the rail yard, specialized equipment efficiently transfers the container onto a train for further transport.
  • Intermodal Transfer:
  • Depending on the final destination, the train may deliver the container directly to a railroad station in the destination city.
  • Alternatively, the train might transport the container to a port facility for maritime shipping on a vessel.
  • Maritime Transport (Optional):
  • If international travel is required, the shipping company carefully loads the container onto a vessel for transport across the maritime network.
  • Upon arrival at the destination port, the container is unloaded and transferred to another mode of transport.
  • Final Delivery:
  • The container is either loaded onto another truck for direct delivery to the consignee’s location (final modal station).

In some cases, the container might be transferred to another train for a shorter inland leg before final delivery by truck.

  • These specialized trucks used for short-distance container movement are referred to as drayage trucks.
  • Unloading and Repurposing:
  • Upon reaching the final destination, the logistics company carefully unloads the goods from the container.
  • The emptied container undergoes necessary inspections and is prepped for its next cargo assignment.
  • Final Delivery:

The logistics company then performs the final delivery, often referred to as “last-mile delivery,” directly to the end user’s location.

What To Look For When Cross Canada Intermodal Shipping?

Finding the best deal on shipping can be tricky, but there are ways to cut costs! Here’s a breakdown of your options:

Shop Around:

  • Compare Rates

Different companies like, CP Rail, CN Rail, and North Atlantic International, offer different prices and speeds. 

Get quotes from several companies to find the best fit for your needs.

Look for Discounts:

  • Special Offers 

Shipping companies often have discounts for holidays, e-commerce businesses, non-profits, and high-volume shippers. Ask about any current promotions they might have.


  • Bulk Shipping 

If you ship frequently, negotiate with the sales department for a better rate based on your estimated volume.

Go Digital:

  • Online Booking 

Many companies offer discounts for booking online. This also allows you to schedule pickups, print labels, and track shipments – saving time and money.


  • Shared Containers

For smaller businesses, consolidate your items with others going to the same destination. This reduces individual costs while maintaining safety.

Use Shipping Software:

  • Automated Comparison

Busy businesses can benefit from software (TMS) that compares rates across different companies and automatically chooses the best option for you.

Consider Alternatives:

  • Slower but Cheaper 

Intermodal (train-truck) or rail shipping can be slower but significantly cheaper than traditional methods. This is a good option for non-urgent or bulky items.

And remember the best method depends on your needs. Consider factors like speed, budget, and item size when making your decision.

How to Choose The Company For Intermodal?

Picking the right shipping company in Canada is important for your business to thrive. They’ll get your stuff where it needs to go safely and on time. Along with delivery, they will keep you informed if there are any bumps on the road. 

Here’s what to consider when making your choices and questions that you should ask:

  • What are you shipping?

Think about if it’s going within Canada or overseas, how fast it needs to get there, and what’s in the package (does it need to be kept cold?). Some companies offer super-fast shipping or special temperature control.

  • Where are you shipping to?

Make sure the company delivers to your destination, especially if it’s remote or outside Canada. Talk to your customs broker (they can help with this too) to see if they recommend any companies.

  • How much will it cost?

This is a big one! Compare prices, discounts, and see if you can negotiate a better deal.

  • What happens if something goes wrong?
  • Make sure the company has insurance in case your stuff gets lost or damaged.
  • Understand what’s covered and how to make a claim.
  • Consider extra insurance for valuable items.
  • How’s the customer service?

You want a company that’s easy to reach and helpful if you have any questions or problems. They should also be able to track your package for you.

  • What’s their reputation?

Look for companies with good reviews and a history of happy customers.

  • Extra perks?

Some companies offer handy extras, like helping with customs clearance. This is extra helpful in areas that have strong customs policies.


Shipping in Canada can be expensive, but you can be a shipping pro! And to be that pro we can  compare rates, look for deals, team up for small items, or use software to find the cheapest option. 

For non-urgent items, consider slower methods. Choose a company based on your needs and check reviews for reliability. 

Statistics indicate a significant upswing in the intermodal shipping industry. This growth suggests a future filled with even greater opportunities for improved and more efficient freight movement.

So stay vigilant, save money, and ship smart!


What Are Intermodal Shipping Methods?

Intermodal shipping is a way to move your stuff using different types of transportation. It all starts with a super strong container that can be loaded on trucks, trains, and even ships! These containers keep your things safe as they travel from place to place. 

There are two main types of intermodal shipping: international (goes across countries) and domestic (stays within Canada).

What Are The Four Intermodal Means of Transportation?

Intermodal transportation is a logistical strategy that utilizes a combination of different transportation modes to move goods from their origin to their destination. This typically involves a seamless integration of trucks, trains, ships, and even airplanes throughout the supply chain.

Why Is Intermodal Shipment So Economical?

Intermodal freight transportation offers cost advantages compared to full truckload shipments. This is due to two key factors: firstly, container fees for intermodal transport are generally lower. Secondly, the standardized nature of intermodal containers facilitates easier loading and unloading onto ships, leading to reduced cargo handling and labor costs for international shipments.


Picture of Francine Goulet

Francine Goulet

Francine Goulet is the Founder and CEO of, one of the largest intermodal service providers in Canada, serving the North American market...

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