Intermodal Shipping: A Different Way to Move Freight

  intermodal shipping Contrary to popular belief, intermodal shipping is not rail shipping. The process of getting freight quotes, moving freight, transit times, etc., is completely different from rail. Rail/tracks access is a must for shipping via rail. Obviously, not many shippers have this access. We use intermodal shipping to get around this.

Intermodal Shipping is a process for shipping that combines rail and truckload.

Most of the time, the freight will not leave its container from pickup to delivery. The container will be moved from truck to rail and back to truck again; never leaving the container. Here’s some other things to know about intermodal:

Packaging is Key

Because the container will be moved (rather than the pallets inside like in LTL), dunnage and blocking/bracing materials are very important. The idea behind intermodal packaging is to keep movement inside the container to a minimum. Items must be crated or palletized (no loose boxes), and must be secured.

Intermodal Shipping is cheaper for longer distances

The rub, however, is that the transit time is longer. And once an item is picked up and in transit, there’s no stopping the freight until it’s delivered. Consequently, intermodal shipping is for items that are not time-sensitive.

The weight limit for this type of shipping is 42,500 pounds

Anything over that will need to be broken up into multiple containers and shipments.

Getting a quote is similar to truckload shipping

To get the most accurate quote you’ll need: pickup and delivery locations (lanes), product description, weight, pallet or crate count, value, and the urgency level that the freight needs to be delivered. It’s very rare to receive a same-day pickup (at least 24 hours is needed to plan a pickup), so patience is a virtue in intermodal shipping. The good news is that intermodal capacity is known a week in advance, so you have plenty of time to plan.

There’s a long list of things that cannot be shipped intermodally…

So you’ll need to check with your freight broker to see if you product is one of them. Some popular items that cannot be shipped include: fruits, vegetables, fish, medicines, over-dimensional products, rockets, batteries, hazardous material, furs & pelts, tobacco products, and motor vehicles. So yeah, lots of stuff. We’ve covered the basics of intermodal shipping in this blog, but there’s always more to learn. For more information, contact our truckload team. They can get you a freight quote, and see if intermodal shipping is an option for you and your shipments.
oil prices affect freight

How Low Oil Prices Affect Freight Trucking, Intermodal & Air

oil prices affect freight
Low Oil Prices Affect Freight Quotes
The price of oil has dropped precipitously over the past two years. I’m sure you’ve heard. If nothing else, you’ve passed a gas station recently and probably did a double-take at those three numbers staring back at you. The reasons behind this drop are expectedly complicated (here’s a pretty good overview of what’s happening), but old fashioned supply and demand goes a long way towards explaining the situation. Increased fracking in places like Texas and Oklahoma have contributed to the drop. Most believe fracking has had some pretty earth-moving consequences in it’s own right. It’s anyone’s guess when prices will rise again, but as they currently sit, low oil prices affect the freight industry in a number of ways. We’ve talked briefly about the factors in shipping rates, so let’s break down three common types of shipments that you’ll find in the domestic freight industry, and how these oil prices affect the consumer, carrier, or broker.
Trucking
Low oil prices often result in lower gas prices, and these lower gas prices can help lower your freight quotes. By spending less on gas, a carrier can offer more competitive freight rates. They can also afford to ship more volume. Added volume increases the demand for more drivers, so hopefully the driver shortage can begin to work itself out. Overall, lower oil prices are a good thing for the trucking industry – both LTL and full truckload services.
Intermodal
Conversely, low oil prices are not great for intermodal shipping. The main draw of intermodal shipments is that they are typically cheaper than your standard truckload freight shipment. The drawback is the delayed transit times. With low gas prices and lower freight quotes, intermodal loses its bang for its buck. Standard truck shipments can offer competitive prices with faster transit times than intermodal.
Air Freight
As a huge part of air freight is tied up in jet fuel prices, you’d think you could see tremendous savings when it comes to getting air freight quotes. Not so fast. While jet fuel prices have dropped, and that has resulted in cheaper commercial air fairs, overall air freight quotes might not move much. This is largely because good years in the air industry are few and far between. To stay afloat in an industry that teeters on insolvency, the air carriers are likely to boost their profits while they can, in an effort to plan for the inevitable hard days to come.
cc image courtesy Clinton Steeds via Flickr
scac codes ltl shipping

SCAC Codes in LTL Shipping

scac codes ltl shipping
Shipping Containers
The freight industry loves acronyms. You’ve got FAKs (Freight of all kinds), BOLs (Bill of lading), and PODs (Proof of delivery), just to name a few. If you’re going to be a freight shipper, it’s best to recognize these terms. And though they are not technically acronyms, you’ll also find SCAC codes across documents and tracking systems from your first freight shipment to your last. What are SCAC codes? Standard Carrier Alpha Codes (SCAC) are unique codes assigned by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) to identify transportation companies. These two-to-four-letter codes were initially developed in the 1960s to help facilitate computerization in the freight industry. Though SCAC codes are common with LTL or Truckload shipping, they are used all over the transportation industry. SCAC codes are used in the automobile, petroleum, forestry, railroad, and ocean container industries, among many others. Like freight class, they are created and regulated by the NMFTA. In LTL shipping, SCAC codes identify a number of commonly used carriers. These SCAC codes can be found on the bill of lading, and other similar shipping documents. They are also used in the freight tracking process, as well as scheduling pickups using EDI (Electronic date interchange). Some common SCAC codes you may see in LTL shipping include: CNWY (Conway), ODFL (Old Dominion), and RDFS (Roadrunner). Though it’s not necessary (or even possible) to memorize all SCAC codes in the industry, it always helps to familiarize yourself with the codes for your commonly used carriers. As with most things shipping: the more you know, the better your freight experience is going to be. CC Image Courtesy Hakan Dahlstrom via Flickr
intermodal shipping

How & When to Use Intermodal with the Truckload Team

intermodal shipping
How & When to Use Intermodal Shipping
Here on the truckload team we use a lot of different equipment to help our customers move their freight. When we’re moving pieces of machinery or tall tanks, we’ll use a flatbed or a stepdeck. When it doesn’t matter how long it takes to arrive at its destination, we can look at partialling the freight to save our customer money. And when our customers are looking to move dry van freight long distances inexpensively, we look at our intermodal options. So, what is intermodal? Intermodal is how we move freight through the railroad here at FreightPros. But it’s important to understand there are two main methods of shipping freight over the rail. First is traditional rail/boxcar shipping, which requires direct railroad access at the shipping and receiving locations. This can cause some logistical issues as rail access is not a common thing for most docks/facilities these days, and rail terminals can be difficult to make arrangements with. The second type of rail shipping, and what we recommend, is intermodal. Intermodal allows us to get around the obstacles by offering “door-to-door” service, meaning all you need is a dock or forklift to get the material on or off the truck, just like standard truckload dry van service. Basically, a truck arrives at the shipping location and is loaded, it then goes to the rail terminal where the trailer is removed from the truck and secured to the rail chassis. When the train reaches the destination terminal the trailer is removed from the train and hooked up to a truck, which makes the final delivery. While there are many similarities between intermodal and truckload shipping, there are a handful of major differences. The biggest of these is transit times. It can take weeks for an intermodal shipment to reach its final destination, and once the freight is on the rail there is no way to get it off or speed up delivery. Next, the freight must be very secure. Freight trains are not known for their smooth rides. Securing the freight is very similar to truckload, but pallets must either be blocked and braced to the floor of the container/trailer or securely strapped. Last is freight cost. When intermodal options are available they can be significantly less expensive than traditional over-the-road truckload shipping. When the option is available, moving dry van freight over long distances with intermodal can’t be beat for the price. Just remember that it can take significantly longer than over the road truckload and the freight must be correctly secured. If you have any questions about intermodal or truckload shipping, we at FreightPros are always here to help. CC Image Courtesy McD22 via Flickr
expedited shipping

Know the Basics of Expedited Shipping

expedited shipping
Time is Money
Expedited Shipping is one of the many types of freight shipping we handle here at FreightPros, but we’ve found that some people don’t quite understand the different ways we do this. Today, we’re going to fix that problem. We’re going to learn the basics of expedited shipping for LTL, Truckload, and even Intermodal. Expedited shipping is the action of paying an additional fee to “speed up” your freight shipment. As you can learn in our Beginner’s Guide to Freight Shipping, less-than-truckload freight transit times are estimated. This philosophy protects the freight companies, but can cause delays for an LTL shipment. Expedited shipping is a way to get around these estimated transit times. As mentioned above, if you want expedited shipping, you’re going to have to pay for it. The fastest way to move your freight is through the air. We offer Fedex air shipments, and though they’ll get your freight from Florida to California in a flash, it’s going to cost you. Another form of expedited shipping comes in the form of hot shot carriers. These carriers are available if you’re in a pinch and need freight picked up ASAP. On the truckload side, things aren’t as laissez-faire. Pickup and delivery times are agreed upon before the freight is in transit. There is however the opportunity for a “team service.” Team service means that drivers switch off during their trip when each driver’s legal limit is hit in hours driven. With this service the freight is always moving, outside of the occasional food or bathroom stop. As for Intermodal shipping, well, don’t use intermodal shipping if you’re looking at expedited shipping. Though the price might be lower, intermodal shipping offers slower transit times. CC image courtesy Wajahat Mahmood 

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