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User Experience Switching to 53' Domestic Intermodal Freight Services

May 21, 2024 Rick LaGore

Intermodal Container Loading at Rail Ramp

Introduction to 53' Domestic Intermodal Freight Services

Are you tired of the rising costs and inefficiencies associated with traditional truckload shipping? You're not alone. As a business owner or logistics manager, you’re constantly seeking ways to optimize your supply chain, reduce costs, and improve your company’s environmental footprint. The challenges of maintaining reliable and cost-effective shipping can feel overwhelming. The good news? Switching to 53' domestic intermodal freight services could be the solution you've been searching for.

At InTek Freight & Logistics, Inc., we understand your concerns. We’ve helped countless businesses transition to intermodal shipping, and we're here to share our expertise with you. This article will guide you through the user experience of making the switch to 53' domestic intermodal freight services, offering insights, real-life examples, and practical tips to ensure a smooth and successful transition. By the end, you'll have a clear understanding of the benefits and challenges, and you'll be equipped with the knowledge to make an informed decision for your business.

Why Businesses Are Switching to 53' Domestic Intermodal Freight

Cost Benefits of 53' Domestic Intermodal Freight

One of the primary reasons businesses are turning to 53' domestic intermodal freight services is the significant cost savings. This savings is well documented by the Journal of Commerce (JOC) with an average contract savings of 25% over truckload. To temper expectations, we like to say shippers can expect to save roughly 18% over truckload, as it does depend on the lane among other factors.

Savings is generated because intermodal shipping combines the efficiency of rail transport with the flexibility of truckload shipping, often resulting in lower overall transportation costs. By leveraging the extensive rail network across the United States and Canada, businesses can avoid the high costs associated with long-haul trucking.

Intermodal works best for shipments over 750 miles and with the dray segments of the lane being roughly 50 miles from their respective rail terminals. The savings increases as the linehaul miles increase and the dray becomes a lesser percentage of the total miles moved.

For example, imagine you're a manufacturer in Chicago shipping products to Los Angeles. With traditional truckload shipping, you're looking at significant expenses in fuel, driver wages, and road tolls. However, by switching to intermodal, your goods travel primarily by rail, reducing fuel consumption and labor costs. The result? A more cost-effective shipping solution that boosts your bottom line.

Environmental Advantages of Intermodal Shipping

In today's world, sustainability is more than just a buzzword; it's a crucial component of business operations that improves sales. A Nielsen study said that almost half of US consumers are willing to modify their purchasing habits in order to reduce environmental impact - and that was 10 years ago as of this writing. Plenty of other resources agree.

Intermodal freight services have substantial environmental benefits, making them an attractive option for companies committed to reducing their carbon footprint.

Rail transport is significantly more fuel-efficient than trucking. According to the Association of American Railroads, trains can move one ton of freight nearly 500 miles on a single gallon of fuel and reduce the carbon footprint by 60% as compared to trucking.

By switching to 53' domestic intermodal freight, your business can contribute to a cleaner, greener planet while enhancing your corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Increased Efficiency and Reliability

Efficiency and reliability are paramount in logistics. Intermodal freight services provide a dependable alternative to traditional trucking, with fewer delays and a more predictable delivery schedule. Now this statement may sound different than what many shippers have experienced, but when working with a reputable IMC (intermodal marketing company) this is one of the misconceptions of intermodal that quickly dissipates.

Why? Rail transport is less susceptible to traffic congestion, road construction, and weather-related disruptions, ensuring your goods arrive on time and intact.

Take, for instance, a retail company based in New York, shipping seasonal merchandise to various distribution centers across the country. By using intermodal freight services, the company can schedule shipments more precisely, reducing the risk of stockouts and ensuring products are available when customers need them. This improved reliability enhances customer satisfaction and strengthens your business reputation.

The Transition Process: What to Expect

Initial Considerations and Planning

Transitioning to 53' domestic intermodal freight services requires careful planning and consideration, as do any new supply chain initiatives. Start by evaluating your current shipping needs and identifying areas where intermodal can provide the most benefit. Connecting with an IMC like InTek Freight & Logistics, can help in a number of ways, starting with the use of intermodal optimization models.

For these models, you need only gather your shipping origin and destination zip codes for upload, and within minutes you'll see all the lanes which are best suited to intermodal. Once the intermodal lanes are established, other considerations to add to the decision process are shipping volume, distance, inventory, and delivery timelines.

Next, with your IMC, conduct a thorough cost analysis to find the expected savings. Comparing the costs to your existing trucking expenses will give you a clear picture of the potential savings.

Working with an Intermodal Freight Provider

Partnering with a reputable intermodal freight provider is crucial for a smooth transition. Intermodal providers operate under the term intermodal marketing company, IMC, so start your research looking for the best and largest intermodal marketing companies and narrow it down from there.

Look for a provider with extensive experience in intermodal logistics and a strong network of rail and dray trucking partners. At InTek Freight & Logistics, Inc., we pride ourselves on our expertise and comprehensive service offerings, ensuring your intermodal shipments are handled efficiently and professionally.

Your provider will guide you through the transition process, helping you navigate the implementation of a strong intermodal shipping program. They’ll assist with route planning, scheduling, and coordinating the various transportation modes involved in your shipments, making it just as easy as the single call needed for truckload capacity. 

As part of the analysis, pay close attention to both the intermodal ramps and the dray network your IMC uses to move your freight. This is key as not all IMCs have access to all ramps, and dray is the linchpin of a successful intermodal operation. For instance, the large asset IMCs only work with a portion of intermodal ramps, while non-asset IMCs have access to all intermodal rail ramps and to rail-owned intermodal containers and private fleets.

For more on asset and non-asset IMCs, we recommend reading Asset vs Non-Asset Intermodal Freight Providers: A Detailed Comparison.

Necessary Documentation and Compliance

Intermodal shipping involves the same documentation and compliance requirements as traditional trucking. No need to familiarize yourself with new paperwork. Intermodal shipments require a bill of lading and for cross border shipments, the same customs documentation.

Working closely with your intermodal freight provider will streamline this process. 

Challenges and Solutions in Switching to 53' Domestic Intermodal Freight

Common Challenges Faced During the Transition

Switching to intermodal freight services is less daunting than many may believe. To help in the process, think of intermodal to be truck-like, not exactly like truckload.

The differences that are the most likely to trip up someone new to intermodal are weight and securing the cargo in the intermodal container.  

Legal Intermodal Weight

The legal weight for an intermodal payload is 42,500 lbs. By comparison, truckload is just slightly higher at 44,000.

Securing Cargo for Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal shipments undergo what is known as harmonic vibration when traveling on the railroad. This gentle and steady vibration moves product both horizontally and vertically in an intermodal container. Because of this, intermodal should be blocked and braced to ensure the cargo is secure and the weight stays distributed legally at both the origin and destination ramps.

Your IMC will work with your operations team and the railroad to provide load diagrams and where to block and brace. Quite often all that is required are a couple of 2 x 4s and 16 penny nails, so don’t let this requirement throw you or the team off.

Case Studies: Successful Transitions to 53' Domestic Intermodal Freight

Case Study 1: Company A's Cost Savings and Efficiency Gains

Company A, a large consumer goods manufacturer, faced rising transportation costs and sought a more efficient solution. By transitioning to 53' domestic intermodal freight services, it reduced shipping costs by 20% and improved delivery reliability. The switch also allowed for expansion of its distribution network without increasing its carbon footprint.

Case Study 2: Company B's Experience with Cross-Border Intermodal Freight

Company B, an HVAC parts supplier, needed a reliable shipping solution for cross-border shipments between the U.S. and Mexico. Switching to intermodal freight services streamlined its logistics operations, reduced transit times, and cut shipping costs by 15%. The transition also enhanced its ability to meet customer demands and stay competitive in the market.

Tips for a Smooth Transition to 53' Domestic Intermodal Freight

Best Practices for Implementing Intermodal Freight Solutions

To ensure a successful transition to intermodal freight services, follow these best practices:

  • Conduct a Thorough Analysis: Evaluate your current shipping processes, costs, and requirements to identify where intermodal can provide the most benefit.
  • Choose the Right Provider: Partner with an experienced intermodal freight provider with a strong network and proven track record.
  • Develop a Detailed Plan: Create a comprehensive transition plan that outlines timelines, responsibilities, and key milestones.
  • Communicate with Stakeholders: Keep all stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the transition process, including employees, customers, and logistics partners.
  • Monitor and Adjust: Continuously monitor your intermodal shipments and make adjustments as needed to optimize performance and address any issues.

Tips for Seamless Coordination with Logistics Partners

Effective coordination with logistics partners is crucial for successful intermodal shipping. Consider these tips:

  • Establish Clear Communication Channels: Maintain open lines of communication with your intermodal provider.
  • Utilize Technology: Leverage transportation management systems (TMS) and other technologies to streamline coordination and improve visibility. The key here is not so much the technology your company has, but how it connects with your intermodal provider who has all the connections into the railroad and dray tracking systems.
  • Set Expectations: Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and expectations with all logistics partners to ensure alignment and accountability.

User Reviews and Feedback

Real User Experiences and Testimonials

Hearing from other businesses that have successfully transitioned to 53' domestic intermodal freight services can provide valuable insights and reassurance. Here are a couple testimonials from our clients:

  • "Switching to intermodal freight services was a game-changer for our business. We saw immediate cost savings and improved delivery times." - Logistics Manager, Retail Company
  • "The transition was smoother than we expected, thanks to the expertise and support of our intermodal provider." - Supply Chain Director, Manufacturing Firm

Insights from Businesses That Have Made the Switch

Businesses that have made the switch to intermodal freight services often report several benefits, including:

  • Cost Savings: Reduced transportation costs and increased efficiency.
  • Environmental Impact: Lower carbon footprint and improved sustainability.
  • Reliability: More predictable delivery schedules and fewer delays because intermodal has consistent rail schedules.


Switching to 53' domestic intermodal freight services offers numerous benefits, from cost savings and environmental advantages to increased efficiency and reliability. By understanding the transition process, preparing for potential challenges, and partnering with an experienced provider, your business can successfully make the switch and enjoy the long-term advantages of intermodal shipping.

At InTek Freight & Logistics, Inc., we're committed to helping businesses like yours navigate the complexities of intermodal freight. Whether you're shipping within the USA or managing cross-border shipments to Mexico and Canada, our expertise and comprehensive services ensure a smooth and successful transition.

By following the insights and tips shared in this article, you'll be well-equipped to make an informed decision and optimize your supply chain with 53' domestic intermodal freight services. Embrace the future of logistics and discover the many benefits that intermodal shipping can offer.

Does this sound a bit daunting? Don't fret, because at InTek, we've got you covered. Just reach out to us, and make our Request a Quote form the last one you'll need to fill out for a long time. For more information about InTek, or logistics and supply chain issues in general, check out our Freight Guides.

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