14 Intermodal Transportation Trends That Matter in 2023

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Amylee Silva

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Intermodal transportation is a growing trend in logistics, but why is intermodal growing? Transportation and logistics companies are focusing on reducing costs, saving time, and increasing efficiency. This article will look at the top 14 intermodal transportation trends that matter in intermodal growth for 2023.

Top 14 intermodal trends for 2023

  1. Increase in Cross-Border trade
  2. Smart Intermodal
  3. Increased automation
  4. Growing demand for Intermodal logistics solutions
  5. Growing use of digital freight platforms
  6. Leaner Intermodal fleet operations
  7. Increased focus on sustainability
  8. Advances in sustainability and greener technology
  9. Better tracking
  10. Innovation in technology
  11. Port congestion
  12. B2B eCommerce
  13. Driver shortages
  14. Warehousing operations

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 Research and Markets.com, the global intermodal freight transportation market is expected to grow by $50.45 mn from 2022-2026, experiencing a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 6.38% during the forecast period.

So what does that mean for logistics professionals?

What’s trending in Intermodal Transport

Trend #1: Increase in Cross-Border Trade

With the global trade slowdown, cross-border trade is becoming more prevalent. Cross-border trade is a significant factor in the growth of intermodal transportation, as it provides an efficient and cost-effective way to move goods.

Trend #2: Smart Intermodal

Smart intermodal solutions are becoming popular among logistics professionals. Smart intermodal solutions use data to track intermodal shipments, optimize routing and scheduling, and coordinate communication between different transport modes and intermodal terminals while providing real-time tracking.

Trend #3: Increased Automation

Automation is becoming increasingly popular in the intermodal transportation industry. This includes automated loading and unloading systems, yard management systems, intelligent planning tools for route optimization, and more. Automated systems can help improve efficiency and reduce costs for logistics companies.

“Automation and robotics are two trends that will impact the industry in a big way, as AI-driven technology leads to improvements in efficiency and accuracy.”

Francine Goulet, CEO of RailGateway.ca.

Trend #4: Growing Demand for Intermodal Logistics Solutions

The demand for intermodal logistics solutions has been growing steadily over the past few years. Many companies are turning to third-party logistics providers to manage their intermodal operations due to their expertise in the field and ability to handle complex supply chain logistics.

Trend #5: Growing Use of Digital Freight Platforms

Digital freight platforms are becoming increasingly popular in the logistics industry as they provide visibility and real-time tracking for shippers. These platforms can help streamline processes, reduce delays, and improve communication between all parties involved in the supply chain.

Trend #6: Leaner Intermodal Fleet Operations

Leaner intermodal fleets are becoming increasingly popular due to their cost savings and environmental benefits. They involve using fewer vehicles with lighter weights that require less fuel to operate, which reduces operating costs and emissions.

Trend #7: Increased Focus on Sustainability

In 2021/22, we reported on the advances in greener technology, and we’re pleased to report that sustainability continues to be a major trend in the intermodal transportation industry.

Companies are focusing on reducing their carbon footprint, increasing efficiency, and improving energy usage. This includes the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles, renewable energy sources, and green initiatives such as recycling and reuse.

Trend #8: 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 region’s first 100-percent battery heavy-haul engine, in support of CN’s sustainability objectives.

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

“Sustainability initiatives such as using low-carbon fuels, reducing emissions from fleets, and using renewable energy will become increasingly important factors for business success.”

Francine Goulet, CEO of RailGateway.ca.

Trend #9: Better tracking of 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)

“In 2023, intermodal transportation will continue its technological advancement, with more connectivity between modes and better tracking of cargo.”

Francine Goulet, CEO of RailGateway.ca.

Trend #10: 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 #11: 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, whichever city we can help.

With over 40 years of experience, RailGateway is the number one choice in Canada for full-load Intermodal freight transportation and cross border to and from the US via the Mississippi Corridor. Request your rail freight quote here. Let’s help you save today.

Trend #12: Transportation companies embracing B2B eCommerce

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

Trend #13: Driver Shortages

An ongoing truck driver shortage, a declining workforce from retirement, and those who can’t afford to drive – is causing 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 (2021/22 figures). While American Trucking Associations’ chief economist Bob Costello’s forecast anticipates a 64,000 driver shortage in 2023 and a new record high of more than 82,000 in 2024.

Trend #14: 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.

Warehouse investments — both in infrastructure and technologies such as robotics, automation, AI, and machine learning — are key to increasing efficiency. Investing in warehouses will help Intermodal companies better serve their customers with faster delivery times and improved customer service.

The warehousing industry is emerging as the latest asset class for investors looking to expand their portfolios. Whether it’s an investment opportunity or a strategic move, investing in your own warehouses can be beneficial for your business.

In 2023 we can expect more conversations about warehouse locations, design, technology integrations, and operational strategies to make sure Intermodal companies stay ahead of the competition.

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.

Keep an eye on these trends to ensure that your business stays updated with the latest developments in intermodal transportation.

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

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