Using railroad shipping to move LTL freight

Transcript

Does LTL Freight Use Railroad Shipping?

With demand continuing to skyrocket and capacities tight across all modes of shipping, shippers and carriers are being forced to get creative in how they move their cargo to get it where it needs to go. One of the ways LTL shippers have started to expand their networks is by using intermodal freight transportation.

The majority of LTL freight is moved with trucks. Multiple shipments are arranged together on a single trailer and transported along routes to carrier hubs, where they are reorganized and placed with other cargo heading in the same direction. For most LTL shipments, this model is the most efficient way to move along major shipping routes to their destinations. However, due to high demand and limited trailer space, some LTL shippers are exploring intermodal shipping that utilizes available railroad capacity.

Intermodal shipping, by definition, involves a combination of two or more types of freight transport, including trucking, railroad, sea, or air shipping. It is predominantly used for international cargo, as well as bulk raw materials that need to travel long distances. For example, a shipment from overseas might arrive in port, be transferred onto a railroad car for the next leg of its journey, then picked up again by a truck driver and delivered to its final destination. The shipment used three different modes of transportation, hence the name intermodal.

When it comes to LTL, intermodal transportation is less common, but can still be used in certain situations. In the past, intermodal transport was only used for LTL shipments that fit together into a 53-foot trailer, were going long distances (usually over 500 miles), and whose destination was within 100 miles of an intermodal hub. It was primarily used as an alternative that could save money on fuel costs over long distances.

When you ship freight on a truck, the cost includes the fuel, fees, tolls, labor, and other associated costs for the vehicle and driver. When you use intermodal services, hundreds of containers are moved at a time over the rails, resulting in a lower price per load. In fact, an intermodal train can move a ton of freight over 400 miles on just a single gallon of fuel! Such an efficient MPG and fewer stops mean freight shipping can sometimes be an excellent alternative to FTL and LTL shipping. The only drawback is that the freight must be transferred between modes of shipping, which can add to the transit time and increase delays. The origin and destination locations must also be close enough to rail hubs to make sense. However, these days, intermodal shipping is being used more and more often by shippers as a way to secure capacity in an increasingly tight market.

Intermodal shipping becomes more competitive with over-the-road trucking the further the shipments travel, as rail transportation is more fuel efficient than trucking at longer distances. Domestic intermodal shipping is predominantly made up of Container on Flat Car (COFC), and Trailer on Flat Car (TOFC) shipping models, where 53-foot containers containing the cargo are loaded directly from a flat rail car onto a truck chassis, or the entire trailer is loaded on and off the flat car and attached to the truck. 

The complex logistics involved in LTL shipping aren’t typically ideal for intermodal and rail shipping. However, if you are having trouble securing capacity for your LTL loads and they are traveling long distances with rail hubs nearby, intermodal railroad transportation may be a viable option. Contact a knowledgeable 3PL like Koho and ask the shipping experts if sending your freight over the rails is the right move for you.

Image of trucks lined up in a parking lot

Does LTL Freight Use Railroad Shipping?

With demand continuing to skyrocket and capacities tight across all modes of shipping, shippers and carriers are being forced to get creative in how they move their cargo to get it where it needs to go. One of the ways LTL shippers have started to expand their networks is by using intermodal freight transportation.

The majority of LTL freight is moved with trucks. Multiple shipments are arranged together on a single trailer and transported along routes to carrier hubs, where they are reorganized and placed with other cargo heading in the same direction. For most LTL shipments, this model is the most efficient way to move along major shipping routes to their destinations. However, due to high demand and limited trailer space, some LTL shippers are exploring intermodal shipping that utilizes available railroad capacity.

Intermodal shipping, by definition, involves a combination of two or more types of freight transport, including trucking, railroad, sea, or air shipping. It is predominantly used for international cargo, as well as bulk raw materials that need to travel long distances. For example, a shipment from overseas might arrive in port, be transferred onto a railroad car for the next leg of its journey, then picked up again by a truck driver and delivered to its final destination. The shipment used three different modes of transportation, hence the name intermodal.

When it comes to LTL, intermodal transportation is less common, but can still be used in certain situations. In the past, intermodal transport was only used for LTL shipments that fit together into a 53-foot trailer, were going long distances (usually over 500 miles), and whose destination was within 100 miles of an intermodal hub. It was primarily used as an alternative that could save money on fuel costs over long distances.

When you ship freight on a truck, the cost includes the fuel, fees, tolls, labor, and other associated costs for the vehicle and driver. When you use intermodal services, hundreds of containers are moved at a time over the rails, resulting in a lower price per load. In fact, an intermodal train can move a ton of freight over 400 miles on just a single gallon of fuel! Such an efficient MPG and fewer stops mean freight shipping can sometimes be an excellent alternative to FTL and LTL shipping. The only drawback is that the freight must be transferred between modes of shipping, which can add to the transit time and increase delays. The origin and destination locations must also be close enough to rail hubs to make sense. However, these days, intermodal shipping is being used more and more often by shippers as a way to secure capacity in an increasingly tight market.

Intermodal shipping becomes more competitive with over-the-road trucking the further the shipments travel, as rail transportation is more fuel efficient than trucking at longer distances. Domestic intermodal shipping is predominantly made up of Container on Flat Car (COFC), and Trailer on Flat Car (TOFC) shipping models, where 53-foot containers containing the cargo are loaded directly from a flat rail car onto a truck chassis, or the entire trailer is loaded on and off the flat car and attached to the truck. 

The complex logistics involved in LTL shipping aren’t typically ideal for intermodal and rail shipping. However, if you are having trouble securing capacity for your LTL loads and they are traveling long distances with rail hubs nearby, intermodal railroad transportation may be a viable option. Contact a knowledgeable 3PL like Koho and ask the shipping experts if sending your freight over the rails is the right move for you.

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