Intermodal rail transportation has revolutionized the way shippers deliver goods across North America. 3PLs provide the service with capabilities that can match truck-like transit times while avoiding challenges such as driver shortages and fuel prices, all while reducing environmental footprint. Intermodal has evolved greatly over the years, with companies strategically looking to make the most cost-effective and fastest decisions for their supply chain. As the industry moves into 2017, supply chains can look to see some consistency from previous years and an increased focus on supply chain optimization.
Getting the Most for Your Money
Double-stacking freight containers has become a common practice, increasing the amount of product moved on one train, saving time and cost. The increased use of double-stacking continues to grow and 2017 will be no exception.
Cities, especially those with ports, see a need to begin double-stacking containers as a more appealing option for global import and export. The practice is also a key in moving product across North America. However, infrastructure does not always match the height parameters needed. The Port of Baltimore is working to receive funding to extend the Howard Street Tunnel two feet to make the port capable of double-stacking1. This is in an effort to remain competitive with ports in Virginia, New York, and New Jersey. The practice also reduces the carbon footprint that moving product generates. Trains are 15 percent more economical and 66 percent more sustainable than trucks2.
Positive Momentum Into 2017
As the fourth quarter of 2016 came to a close, some rail providers saw as much as a 20 percent increase in loads year over year3. However, this does not come without hesitation that most of 2016 was filled with a decline for the first time since 20094. The increase has provided positive momentum going into 2017 with many factors shaping the fluctuation of rates such as fuel prices and capacity.
Keeping Up with the Latest Technology
2017 will continue to see an evolution of technology across the supply chain including intermodal. The establishment of containerization, the ability to take containers directly from the road to the rail has revolutionized intermodal, providing time and cost savings5. An end-to-end solutions provider can maximize a supply chain with capabilities in drayage and global logistics to pair with intermodal transportation.
The intermodal industry will see technology evolving beyond containerization, with increased capabilities of visibility and programs to match the needs of regulations. Technology will evolve as shippers now have the ability to remotely monitor and adjust temperature-controlled freight with premier intermodal providers.
The demand for efficiency, cost savings, speed, and visibility will continue to push the intermodal market into the New Year as intermodal provides shippers the ability to deliver freight across North America. As the market continues with uncertainty, an experienced intermodal provider can provide consistent and reliable capacity that focuses on strategic business goals.