What is Intermodal Transportation?

What is IntermodalIn the transportation industry, there are myriad ways to move freight across the world; still, ships, railroads and trucks are, essentially, the backbone of the industry. The transport of goods and commodities from manufacturers to customers is no small undertaking, and requires a high degree of organization and coordination between the different modes. One innovation that’s altered the global freight movement landscape is the intermodal container.

Intermodal transportation utilizes special standardized containers to transport cargo on trucks, freight trains and ships. These standardized containers are large rectangular boxes, capable of being secured to special trailers. The containers are durable, constructed of steel and built so that they can be transferred between the different modes of transportation.

The concept of intermodal transportation is nothing new. Dating back to the 18th century and predating the railways, some of the earliest containers were those used for shipping in England in the 1780s. Later, in the 1950s, a new standardized steel intermodal container (based on specifications from the United States Department of Defense) arrived on the scene, and began to revolutionize freight transportation. The use of the new modality using containers increased steadily in the 1960s, with rail intermodal traffic tripling between 1980 and 2002.

The bookends of intermodal tend to be rail and ocean segments; in between, trucking is frequently used to connect them. Commonly referred to as drayage, the specialized trucking that runs between ocean ports, rail terminals, and inland shipping docks is typically provided by dedicated companies.

While many variables exist, a common scenario would begin with a truck moving an empty piece of equipment to a shipper to pick up a load. This equipment would then be loaded with freight and taken by truck to a railroad yard. The loaded equipment would be put onto a train and railed to its destination, taken off the train and finally delivered by truck to the customer. The overarching goal is overall efficiency in the process, which facilitates profit for all parties involved.

Calhoun Truck Lines has six trucking operations throughout the Midwest (Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, Columbus, Indianapolis). Each operation is fully equipped to handle your intermodal trucking needs. We are dedicated to delivering a level of service that consistently meets our customers’ expectations. Our responsibility continues with providing a professional working environment for our employees and maintaining a safety conscious truck fleet to share the roads with fellow motorists. To learn more about working with us, visit us online at CalhounTruckLines.com.

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