A shortage of drivers in the trucking industry is creating some painful dilemmas for transportation buyers and logistics managers. With the average age of a truck driver now in the late fifties and a dwindling interest in the trucking career path among young workers, it’s getting harder — and more expensive — to find drivers to carry long-haul loads. Truck drivers are required to spend long hours away from home without the company of co-workers. And trucking can be a grueling, sometimes dangerous job. As a result, the number of truckers is decreasing and, consequently, costs for their services are rising. Some loads are even being left to linger on docks while companies wait for truckers to become available.
But there’s good news for those looking to offset this shortage and increased cost. You have an attractive, time-tested alternative to consider: intermodal shipping. Intermodal shipping allows you to transport your freight in an intermodal container (sometimes called an ISO container) or vehicle using multiple modes of transportation, including railways, barges and trucks.
Here we look at the advantages of intermodal freight transport and what you’ll need to do to make the switch.
1. Services Are Easier to Attain
Intermodal opens up other avenues of transportation that are more readily available so trucking services can be kept to a minimum. While trucking is still part of the intermodal system, it’s easier to find a truck driver to do a short day run versus one who will provide long-haul services.
2. It’s Less Expensive
Utilizing intermodal transportation is also significantly cheaper than relying exclusively on long-haul trucking. The bulk of the miles for an intermodal shipment will be logged on a train, which is far less expensive than over the road trucking.
3. It’s Better for the Environment
Intermodal is also more environmentally friendly than long-haul trucking because large numbers of freight containers are moved together using the most efficient modes of transportation.
While intermodal transit time can take a little longer than long-haul trucking, a third-party logistics provider can help you plan ahead and build the extra time into your schedule. And if you’re accustomed to shipping delays caused by waiting for long-haul trucking services to become available, you may find that intermodal is actually faster than your current shipping solution.
If your company faces the challenge of changing the mindsets of production/logistics staff and convincing them to plan for different transit times, an intermodal provider can help. A 3PL can walk them through the process, address any hurdles they may face and customize an intermodal plan for their unique shipping needs.
In short, if the distance between your plant and the consignee is greater than 700 miles, you should inquire about intermodal shipping. At CLX Logistics, all of our intermodal customers are saving money versus shipping over the road.
Stephen Hamilton Jr. is the managing director of ChemLogix Global (a division of CLX Logistics), which encompasses CLX Logistics’ intermodal and international service offerings. He began his tenure with CLX Logistics in 2001 as the manager of the company’s liquid bulk intermodal business.