From A to B: The process of intermodal shipping

As a trucker, I have experienced many of the points in intermodal transport as it relates to U.S. shipments. I think that the process of an intermodal freight shipment depends on its origin and destinations, the geographic challenges of getting from point A to B, and time constraints.

When the shipment originates within the U.S., as the article states, it will typically be loaded onto a container or trailer. It is more likely to simply be loaded onto a trailer if the load is a long-haul directly to the consignee. If it is going to be loaded onto a train or ship at some point it will likely be shipped via a container. The truck will transport the container to a rail or ship terminal. The container will be transferred to the next mode of transportation. When it reaches the next point either by rail or ship it will likely be transported by truck again, to its final destination.

If the shipment is going by air it will not likely be transported to the airport by a traditional tractor-trailer combination vehicle. It is more likely to be transported by a cargo van or box truck. This is because airplanes cannot accommodate larger shipments. Once the plane reaches its destination it will likely need transporting by another small truck or van to the receiver.

When the shipment originates outside of the United States it is much the same process. From the shipper, the load will likely be taken by truck to the port/terminal where it will be loaded onto a ship. Shipments outside the U.S. are also likely to travel by air if they need to arrive quickly. When shipping by sea or air the shipment will need to be transported by truck to its final destination.

Bottleneck is another word for congestion. The intermodal system can produce congestion when the containers used to transport goods through intermodal transport are not returned. Containers are typically leased out by a carrier for the transport of goods. These containers must be returned to the carrier to facilitate the transport of more goods. Also a bottleneck can occur when chassis, that are used to transport containers by truck, are not available to facilitate transport. This can cause congestion at terminals where cargo has been unloaded and if waiting to be transported by truck. I think if shippers owned their own containers, it would alleviate the problem of not being able to find any empty containers. As far as the chassis problem goes, empty containers are often kept on chassis making them unavailable for transporting. Stopping this practice would help. Other congestion issues can include customs delays and personnel shortages.



"Demurrage and detention charges in container shipping." December 12, 2018. UNCTAD. Retrieved from:

 "Intermodal vs. Transloading." April 23, 2019. UP. Retrieved from:

"Lesson 1: Introduction to Transloading." 2021. Commtrex. Retrieved from:

"Comparing the Costs of Rail Shipping vs Truck." April 20, 2020. RSI Logistics. Retrieved from: 



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