Intermodal Rail Shipping: The Reliable Shipping Method for Canadian Businesses

toy truck lifting intermodal freight container
Picture of Amylee Silva
Amylee Silva

Share Post:

Table of Contents

This post was last updated on September 23rd, 2022.

You’ve probably heard about intermodal shipping and how it’s predicted to explode. But why should you care? What does intermodal rail shipping offer that the trucking industry doesn’t? And is intermodal freight shipping right for your business?

We’ll address these questions in this post, so keep on reading because it’s time to go intermodal! No, this is not outdated. The intermodal industry is growing and more shippers are discovering the many benefits of this type of transportation. 

So why intermodal?

One of the reasons intermodal has become so popular with shippers is efficiency. Business shippers are not only looking for a more cost-effective way to transport their goods to help reduce costs.

They’re looking for reliability and consistency as well. And intermodal transport gives them just what they need: a way to ship heavier items over large distances without paying higher rates.

Let’s discover why businesses should consider making the switch to intermodal for their shipping needs, how to work with an intermodal broker, and how to prepare for success when shipping with rail and intermodal.

What Exactly is Intermodal Transportation?

It may seem like intermodal is just a fancy way of saying “shipping by train.”

But intermodal goes far beyond that because intermodal freight shipping uses two or more modes of transportation to ship goods efficiently and cost-effectively over long distances.

So what exactly does intermodal service offer?

It offers both domestic and international shipping and long-distance transport of goods without any handling of the cargo itself nor the cost or hassle associated with air.

Also known as “combined transport,” the intermodal service makes it possible to move freight safely and securely between provinces, states, and sometimes even countries by rail, ship, and trucks.

Celebrating 40+ years of intermodal rail shipping service

With RailGateway, you get peace of mind knowing we’ve got your intermodal transportation covered. You can trust us to keep you and your cargo moving coast-to-coast. Contact one of our rail experts today to learn more about how you can save with intermodal shipping.

What is Intermodal Transportation Used For?

With intermodal transportation, you can ship just about anything anywhere.

It’s great for large or bulky items that don’t fit into standard-sized containers and are too big to go by air freight.

Manufacturing, food service providers, and e-Commerce businesses are just a few industries that frequent intermodal transport users.

Read our post here for an in-depth look at when to use intermodal transportation and which industries benefit the most from it.

Also popular with businesses shipping oversized cargo is the ability to secure your shipment in transit using intermodal locks; this increases security while at sea and while intermodal trains are in transit.

As the name implies, intermodal transportation is used for transporting goods by rail and ship to move freight between provinces, states, or even countries.

The intermodal shipping process

Intermodal containers can be interchanged between different modes of transportation, which helps to keep costs low and allows businesses to get the benefits of multiple kinds of cargo shipping.

Containers can fit on both ships and trucks while also allowing for rail transport. This means that your freight will spend less time traveling and more time in transit, which leads to faster delivery, and increased capacity, at a reduced cost.

Intermodal containers can be loaded onto a ship or truck using an intermodal ramp (like the one pictured below).

Shipping Port

The intermodal process is streamlined by intermodal ramps like this, making it easy for your freight to be loaded and unloaded quickly for intermodal shipping.

Intermodal containers are also a great alternative if your goods must be shipped on trucks or ships that will not accommodate bulky items like machinery, furniture, trailers, or other freight that is too large to fit into a traditional-sized cargo container.

An example of the intermodal logistics industry is combining the benefits offered by truck, rail, and ship freight services for long-haul shipments.

Trucking companies can use truck-only ferries, bridges, or tunnels for shipments between terminals. At the same time, ocean ports have dedicated drayage services – usually provided by exclusive firms with extensive experience in this area.

What would be a common intermodal service?

In a typical freight transportation scenario, a truck will bring an empty intermodal container to pick up the designated load.

The empty container will then be filled with goods and taken by truck to a rail yard station. When the container arrives there, it is then linked to a train and sent where it is needed. Freight railroads are commonly used for long-haul sections.

This yard station also serves as an embarkation point for loading cargo onto containers, which can then be used again after they’re empty – when combined with other loads in order of quantity consumed at this location (or anywhere else).

The freight is then offloaded from the train and delivered by truck to its final destination. That is what we call the final mile delivery.

Understanding Intermodal Freight Shipping

Intermodal transportation is an excellent alternative for businesses using traditional logistics companies for their supply chain needs.

With intermodal, you can save money on fuel costs and get goods to your customers quicker than ever before. If you’re looking to switch over from a more traditional form of freight shipping, intermodal is the perfect way to do it!

What is an intermodal company?

An intermodal company is a freight transportation provider that specializes in intermodal shipping.

They work with both businesses and rail service providers to help clients ship freight and raw materials by rail from cargo ships without handling the shipments themselves.

What is an intermodal vehicle?

An intermodal vehicle is a truck or train that carries shipping containers to different modes of transportation.

These vehicles are specially designed for intermodal transport and may include features like:

  • Multiple axles, which make them better able to handle the weight of the intermodal shipment in transit
  • Front or rear-mounted cranes that allow intermodal shipping containers to be lifted on and off the vehicle;
  • Multiple floors, allowing for double-stacked containers

Why hire an intermodal broker?

Working directly with a trusted intermodal broker allows you to get the most out of intermodal transport. The intermodal industry has grown because shippers are discovering how much time and money intermodal transportation can save while ensuring safe and secure shipment handling from door to destination.

By working with intermodal providers, you get peace of mind knowing that they will take care of your intermodal shipping process in all aspects.

Seamlessly ship your intermodal freight with

At RailGateway, we believe that intermodal freight shipping is the way of the future for economic growth.

That’s why we’re dedicated to helping Canadian businesses ship intermodally. And that starts with our low intermodal transportation costs and services. Request your FREE rail quote today.

Growth in Intermodal Shipping

The intermodal industry is growing, and it’s clear why. The benefits are undeniable for businesses looking to switch from traditional trucking options to rail transportation.

What You’ll Gain When Shipping with Intermodal Rail Transportation

  • Shorter transit times vs. trucking, which means faster delivery for your customers
  • Reduced carbon footprint and fuel efficiency
  • Improved safety records. Intermodal railroads are safer than other industries
  • The ability for your business to expand intermodally with a broker who can help you import and export goods

Get a more detailed overview of the benefits of switching to rail intermodal transport just here!

Intermodal Transportation: Is it Right for Me?

How do you know if intermodal transport is right for you? There are many questions to ask yourself about intermodal transportation like:

  1. What is my budget for intermodal shipping?
  2. How long do I want to be in transit?
  3. Do domestic borders allow intermodal transportation of goods from foreign countries and vice versa?

The more research your company does on the benefits of intermodal, the easier it will be to make that switch and save money in the process!

If You’re Thinking About Making The Switch

As with any significant switch, intermodal transportation isn’t something you should take lightly.

Many logistics are involved with switching to intermodal that will need to be addressed before making the jump and beginning your intermodal shipping process.

For a deep dive look into when and why to make the change to intermodal, check out our blog post “When to Use Intermodal Transportation and Why.”

The experts in rail shipping

And while intermodal offers many benefits over other shipment methods, you don’t want just any broker – you need a team of intermodal experts who understand the intricacies of intermodal transportation.

At RailGateway, we believe that moving freight should never be an obstacle to your business’s success. Let us take care of it for you with no hassles involved. Contact one of our intermodal freight experts today.

Preparing For Success

If you’re ready to start intermodal shipping, a few things are to consider.

Tips to get ready for intermodal freight shipping

Keep these tips in mind as you plan for your intermodal transport move:

  • Get quotes from multiple intermodal transport companies and read their reviews online.
  • Make sure your business is adequately insured before starting the switch.
  • Use an intermodal broker who can help manage all aspects of your shipment, including customs documentation and compliance requirements. This will save time and money on both ends!
  • Consider the type of cargo or raw materials you plan to ship: Are they environmental hazards? Will you require specific licenses or additional insurance?

More ideas to get ready for your first rail shipments in Canada on the blog!

Mistakes to avoid when dealing with an Intermodal Service

Wasting time and money is the last thing you want to do when starting intermodal shipping, so be sure to avoid these mistakes:

  • Booking the wrong container type or size: Each container is different, whether we talk about capacity or type of cargo it can carry. Do not make the mistake of choosing the wrong one. Be sure to ask your intermodal carrier for their container details before you engage in anything!
  • Having the wrong rail intermodal labeling: Whether you are looking for domestic intermodal or international, you know how important tracking ensures your shipment is making progress and will arrive correctly at the final destination and on time.
  • Partner with non-reliable intermodal carriers or resources on site: At every step of the supply chain, it can matter to have the right people at the right place in order to avoid damage, thefts, and other mistakes.
  • Not having the right equipment.
  • Not being informed enough: Intermodal freight shipping is a complex process, and it’s important to be as knowledgeable as possible before starting. Do your research, find a reputable intermodal carrier, and ask lots of questions! Request your intermodal quote today from RailGateway.

Click here for more details on preparing for success with intermodal rail shipping.

Working with an Intermodal Provider 

Due diligence never hurt anyone. Don’t trust a company because they have a flashy website and claim to be intermodal experts.

Here are some things you should do when researching intermodal transport companies:

  • Check references, reviews, and licenses
  • Request proof of insurance or other certifications that they can handle your shipment(s)
  • Ask for an estimate or intermodal quote before they begin work on the move. How much time will this take? Will it require special equipment?
  • Can cargo be consolidated with another load if applicable? Is there any additional cost involved in doing so?

Check out our blog post, “Questions You Should Ask an Intermodal Shipping Provider,” for more qualifying questions before making your final decision.

Intermodal transport is going through an incredible transformation in the transportation sector, yet many enterprises are still uninformed about the benefits they might gain if they switch.

Indeed, at first intermodal freight shipping can old fashion. But with the help of a qualified intermodal carrier and some careful preparation, you can switch to intermodal transportation with ease and confidence.

Intermodal transportation can save your business time and money, but it’s essential to do your research first and avoid costly mistakes. At RailGateway, we’re here to help with all of your intermodal needs.

Get into intermodal today and start saving; now is the time to act! Contact us for more information on how you can get started today.

You might also Read
RailGateWay Favicon
Get your lowest rates on
Intermodal shipping today!