NFI Industries

Debunking Intermodal Shipping Myths

Intermodal shipping has grown year over year as companies enjoy the benefits of moving freight via rail. In fact, intermodal shipping grew 8.3% in December 2014 in comparison to December of last year1. As the transportation industry faces driver shortages and port complications, intermodal offers a dependable, time definite solution. Although intermodal transportation continues to grow, there are still a few reluctant shippers since their impression of intermodal tends to be dated.

Here are a few common misconceptions of shipping Intermodal:

Service Dependability

Many shippers fear that the service they’ll receive from the rails won’t meet their expectations. There is a perception that if you are transporting via rail that you are at the mercy of the rail lines. The reality is that intermodal on-time percentages have been continually improving over the last decade, even upwards of 90%, especially when companies work with asset-based intermodal providers.


Many companies fear that they won’t have the transparency they need when their freight is in transit. However, this is no longer an issue for many intermodal providers as they utilize satellite technology within our containers. The ability to track loads and the condition of loads are available. For instance, if you are shipping perishable items with a refrigerated container, the intermodal provider monitors the temperature of containers throughout the haul. The technology is also available to adjust temperatures within the container to accommodate for weather conditions.

Security Risks

Security has been a continuous concern for those who consider shipping intermodal. Many believe that because intermodal loads aren’t attached to a truck or they’re sitting at a rail yard, they seem to be more vulnerable to theft. However, rail yards are continuing to advance and The Association of American Railroads continues to invest in improving rail security and safety to revamp the overall service2. Also, leveraging your relationships with the rail lines can allow for additional security measures. For instance, intermediaries can specify the container’s position and request that they are in the bottom position of the car to decrease potential risk. This decreases risk because the well car’s design makes it difficult to open the bottom container’s doors.

Likelihood of Damaged Goods

When hauling freight over the road, truckers can easily go back and check the condition of their loads. A train continues running and depending on the route, any damages may not be discovered until the train reaches its destination. Intermodal rails move between 250,000 to 300,000 refrigerated loads a year3. Trains and intermodal providers have improved their technology to take care of the freight and to avoid damage from even occurring. With refrigerated containers you can specify the temperatures your freight needs to ship at ensuring protection from sweltering heat or the frigid cold. The tools and technology are available to ensure your goods remain intact.

Intermodal is a great way to move your product and ensure that it arrives at your customer as promised. As driver shortages continue, intermodal has become a less driver intense mode of dependably moving goods. If you are shipping frozen or refrigerated goods, looking to save on transportation costs, and need consistent, reliable capacity, then intermodal can be an excellent option to accomplish your supply chain goals.