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

This post was last updated on March 6th, 2022

Have you ever wondered when to use intermodal transportation?

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

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

What is Intermodal Shipping?

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

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

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

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

The main benefits of Intermodal transfers:

– Cheaper transportation costs compared with other forms of shipping;

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

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

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

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

4 Industries That Use Intermodal Transportation and Why

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

1) Manufacturing Companies

Manufacturing companies are among the top intermodal transport users.

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

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

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

2) Construction Companies

Next up are construction companies.

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

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

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

3) Foodservice providers

Foodservice providers play a vital role in intermodal transportation.

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

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

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

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

4) Retailers and e-commerce companies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. You ship a large amount of cargo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Ship long distances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

business man standing in an empty shipping container

Partner with the #1 intermodal rail transport provider in Canada

An investment for future transportation costs’ savings

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

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

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

RailGateway, the intermodal rail reference in Canada

Looking to reduce your shipping costs in Canada?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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