Intermodal transport has become an essential aspect of the supply chain management process where it has seen steady growth over the past two decades.

intermodal transport

Growth Trends

According to a recent report by the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA), the volume of intermodal freight shipments has risen by 4.5 percent since 2014 and the volume of intermodal shipping internationally has also exceeded projections for the second quarter of 2015. Intermodal modes of shipping are experiencing increasing growth and are becoming the dominant portion of many railroads’ business portfolios, states IANA.

Infrastructure Upgrades

Western U.S. ports are continuing to invest in substantial upgrades to infrastructure since they typically handle the major portion of imported goods from Asia.

These infrastructure upgrades by railroads, ocean carriers and trucking companies also serve to reduce traffic congestion on highways and roadways in close proximity to ports.

Trucking companies are also making infrastructure investments in order to better meet port requirements such as upgrading or replacing older trucks to be compliant with 2007 EPA port-clean mandated emission regulations.

Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Port of Savannah, regards rail connectivity as being “hugely strategic and critical to future growth.” Foltz estimates that approximately 20 percent of containerized products arriving into the Port of Savannah leave the port by rail, while the remaining 80 percent are transported by truck.

Railroads are also improving electronic systems to provide shipment details to intermodal transport companies.

Intermodal Challenges

While acknowledging that many trucking customers also ship by rail, the American Trucking Association (ATA) also recognizes that intermodal shipping presents its own unique set of challenges.

“Intermodal requires operational cooperation and dependence with ocean carriers, terminals, railroads and other third parties, diminishing the control-dispatch independence that truckers otherwise had over their operations,” states Dave Manning, president of TCW, a trucking company based in Nashville, Tennessee, and member of the Board of Directors of the ATA’s Intermodal Motor Carrier Conference. “Their problems, unfortunately, become our problems.”

Managers of global supply chains are aware of the crucial impact that each mode and stage of transport has on a company’s supply chain where it is essential that each mode of transportation functions together seamlessly.

The 3PL Advantage

With ocean carriers, railway and trucking companies each offering multiple options for freight tracking, shippers are increasingly turning to third-party logistics providers such as Skyfer Logistic in order to provide them with detailed tracking and tracing information needed to better manage their supply chain across multiple modes of transportation.