Hurricane season technically runs from June 1 to November 30, and freight keeps moving throughout. But as the peak of hurricane season approaches - coincidentally enough during peak freight season - it's important to remember how these major storms can throw a wrench into supply chains. Whether shipping through areas susceptible to hurricanes or not, logistics professionals always need to keep an eye on storm development during these months, as storms can have both direct and indirect impacts. On the direct side, a hurricane affects freight primarily by delaying or rerouting movement of ships, trucks and trains in areas that are in a storm's path, or directly damaging freight either while in transit or in storage. This can occur through damage to roads, rails, ports, warehouses, etc., power outages, high winds making travel unsafe, flooding and more. Indirectly, hurricanes can damage raw materials or warehouses taking out a link in supply chains, lead to backups in other areas as freight is rerouted, cause shifts in the supply and demand equation, and lead to redirected capacity and transportation resources - partly due to FEMA contracts and partly voluntarily - to hurricane recovery efforts. As you can see, the impacts of hurricane season on freight can be far reaching, causing anything from delivery delays to higher prices to product - and fuel - scarcity.
The term "outsource" can have justifiably negative connotations in certain situations, but when it comes to logistics, outsourcing can offer a competitive advantage businesses would otherwise miss out on. To outsource logistics means working with an expert partner to handle specific pieces of freight operations like certain routes and/or products, or under a managed transportation model having that partner handle most if not all day-to-day logistics operations - typically incorporating TMS (transportation management system) software solutions as well. It really depends on an individual business's needs. So who is that partner who can help with any or all of these logistics operations? A third party logistics company (3PL), also sometimes referred to as a logistics service provider (LSP). However you refer to them, the right 3PL will learn the ins and outs of a business and its logistics needs, then offer solutions that incorporate their own expertise, technology and freight partnerships that can not only relieve stress on the company, but also improve operations and even reduce costs.
Everything you need to know about domestic intermodal and how to be successful implementing it into your logistics strategy. Gives tips, tricks and insights on intermodal and what to watch out for when converting from truckload to intermodal.
As warm temperatures continue across the U.S. with summer still going strong, shippers are finding more products require temperature-controlled shipping options to arrive intact. And while the first temp-controlled thought tends to be truckload, reefer intermodal is an option to consider as well. Reefer intermodal refers to the transport of refrigerated containers and/or trailers via a combination of railroad for the long-haul and truck for the first and/or last mile. Reefer is a common term in freight shipping, referring to just about anything temperature-controlled. After all, it's short for refrigerated. But the first thought many shippers have when they hear "reefer" is a truck. While there are plenty of reasons to ship temperature-controlled freight via truck, those who don't consider reefer intermodal are missing out on significant capacity opportunities, both using the same refrigerated trailers trucks carry, and using refrigerated intermodal containers.
While most imagery associated with intermodal freight rightly centers on the railroad, without drayage trucking, loads using this shipping mode would oftentimes be stuck at the ramp. Drayage trucking is the link between the origin and destination of intermodal containers. The railroad takes cargo the bulk of the intermodal journey, but to physically pick up and deliver products from factories, distribution centers, retailers and wherever else, drayage trucking does the first mile/final mile job. Let's back up a bit to explain why. .Intermodal transport refers to the movement of goods between multiple modes - with the distinction that once cargo is packed into a container, it stays in the same one until it arrives at its final destination. Those multiple modes tend to follow a common formula: truck - rail - truck, with drayage trucking equipped with specialized chassis used to bring the load the short haul distance - optimized at 50 miles or less - from its origin to a rail ramp, aka the first mile. Then, the long haul journey - optimized at 700 miles or more - takes place on a freight train before another specialized drayage truck picks the container up from the ramp to take it the rest of the way to its destination, aka the final mile.
Railroad labor negotiations have taken another turn, as Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) No. 250 - established by President Biden - yesterday released its recommendations. The key number recommended in the report by the PEB is 22%, as in a nominal wage increase of 22% over five years. This splits the difference between the reported union proposal of 28% and the Class I Railroads' reported offer of 16%. Keep in mind, any salary increase for the approximately 140,000 union rail workers across the country covers the period between January 2020 and December 2024, so it includes raises paid retroactively for those past two-plus years since the last contract ended. We first discussed the implications of a potential railroad strike last month, and a couple weeks later went over when it could occur. For a brief refresher, if rail labor came to a standstill - even briefly - it would be less than ideal for freight movement heading into peak and holiday shipping season. The first potential strike date is about a month from now, as both sides get 30 days to come together on an agreement after the PEB report release. Let's breakdown a bit more from the recommendations and the reactions to them.
Today, Inc. Magazine revealed that InTek Freight & Logistics is No. 1541 on its annual Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America. “We’re incredibly honored to be a part of the Inc. 5000 this year,” said Rick LaGore, InTek CEO. “The tremendous growth we’ve experienced is a testament to our excellent team and the many wonderful partners we work with both in Indiana and across the country.”
Looking at Google searches, a common question in freight and logistics is "What is transloading vs. intermodal?" The question shows many are confused about the distinction between the two, and rightfully so. Both typically associate with the movement of freight between truckload and railroad - and sometimes steamship as well. But there's one key distinction. In traditional intermodal transport, the load never leaves its original container. As in, the shipper packs a container and it goes across two or three modes all in that same container from origin until it reaches its destination. In transloading, goods may travel the exact same route across two or three modes again, but they'll be unpacked from an original container to either another container or a trailer, depending on how they travel and capacity. Transloading is associated with intermodal because there's very often a rail component to the journey of transloaded freight. But why go over this distinction now you might ask. Because with a still challenged container and chassis environment, transloading could be many shippers' best option to keep freight moving.
Intermodal transportation is a viable option for many shippers, but just as with any other freight mode, it can face challenges relating to capacity, equipment, labor and more. One way to mitigate many of those challenges is access to private intermodal containers. Private intermodal containers - also known as private boxes - offer the advantage of flexibility for intermodal marketing companies and the shippers they serve who have access to them. Those who don't have that access - including asset-based logistics providers and even plenty of IMCs - are handcuffed to either their own containers or those of a specific equipment partner. This means when capacity challenges arise, these companies lack the flexibility of an intermodal alternative.
After a two-year shortage, freight capacity is no longer impossible to come by in intermodal and truckload for that matter. But while finding container space is now a reasonable ask, the intermodal freight market is still held back due to a different somewhat underreported, under the container, shortage: chassis. Chassis are a key piece of the intermodal puzzle. Also sometimes referred to as a container chassis or skeletal trailer, a chassis is a rubber-tired trailer under-frame on which a container is mounted for street or highway transport. Without them, intermodal containers are essentially stuck at the terminal as dray trucks need this purpose-built equipment to haul them. And it can be a compounding problem, as the more containers pile up dwelling at terminals, the more chassis are needed to get them moving.
The term intermodal in shipping means the transportation of shipping containers and truck trailers via freight railroad. Intermodal in essence refers to the use of multiple modes of transportation with a notable distinction being the freight remains in the same container - unhandled - throughout its journey. The key difference between intermodal and general rail freight is that intermodal specifically involves containers and trailers carried on trains via special chassis that can be transferred directly to and from trucks and/or ocean liners as well, while rail - which intermodal falls under - also includes options like boxcar, covered hoppers, flatcars, gondolas, open top hoppers ... and more. Intermodal shipping is optimized for freight lanes of 700 miles or more, and obviously over land. Domestic intermodal encompasses all of North America, as there are Class I railroad lanes heading as far south as Mexico City and as far north as Prince Rupert in Canada, with plenty of locations throughout the U.S. being served as well.