Are You Getting the Best Bang for your Buck with Intermodal?

Author: Lindsay Conway

You might already know that shipping over the rail is a reliable, consistent, and economical way to get your goods where they need to be, but you should take steps to ensure you’re getting the most efficient service. Here are some insider tips for you to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck.

Examine your supply chain.

When using intermodal transportation, it’s important to consider the ebb and flow of your products in the pipeline. Since intermodal shipments often take about a day longer than those over the road, it can be a little more problematic to receive product on a tight schedule if demand spikes. Having a well-planned and organized inventory and management system could be the difference in profit margin for you.

Flexibility is key.

How tight are your pick-up and delivery times? Sometimes railroads’ schedules might be different than what you planned for. If your inventory is well-managed, perhaps you can wait to have your product delivered until the next day, especially if it can get you that better rate.

Don’t forget to factor in drayage as well. Your intermodal shipment might be at the yard, but perhaps a dray can’t be there the exact time you hoped for. Having a flexible schedule could get your load there at a more convenient time for everyone involved, and possibly cheaper, too.

Know when intermodal is the best mode.

The real economic advantage to shipping over the rail kicks in for shipments traveling around 600 miles or more. There is often a slight delay compared to shipping over the road – meaning what would usually take three days to arrive on a truck might take four or five days to arrive if you ship intermodal. Your shipments also must weigh 42,500 pounds or less.

So if you’re shipping long-haul freight, you’re flexible with your delivery dates, and your freight meets the weight requirement, that means intermodal could be the best mode for you.

Block and brace as if your life depended on it.

Blocking and bracing refers to how your shipments are loaded and prepared for transit to ensure that there won’t be shifting during transport. Freight that can easily shift around in transit can be at risk for major damages, and since the shipper (you) are held responsible for proper blocking and bracing, that can be an expensive mistake.

If you’re unsure of how to block and brace, work with an intermodal provider, like Trinity, that can arrange for a railroad representative to come and train your employees how to block and brace correctly at no charge to you.  Or, if you are familiar with the concept and just have a question with a particular load, Trinity can work with a railroad engineer to build a floor plan that explains in detail how it should be blocked and braced effectively.

Work with a third-party intermodal provider.

As an added bonus, working with third-party rail provider usually means one call does it all. Despite the common belief that the shipper has to arrange the pick-up and delivery of the product before and after the rail portion, Trinity can take care of the shipment door-to-door. Having an intermodal provider manage and track the shipment, as well as send you updates, reduces the time your personnel have to spend being involved in the shipment and therefore can reduce your overhead.

Taking all of these tips into consideration could make intermodal shipping even more of a time and money saver for your supply chain. For more information about Trinity’s intermodal services, or to get a quote, call our help line at 844-900-RAIL.

Categories: Intermodal
Tags: intermodal

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