An intermodal marketing company is a logistics company that purchases intermodal capacity directly from the railroads and trucking firms to give shippers a door-to-door intermodal service. The IMC utilizes equipment from multiple sources to provide the intermodal capacity, while also bringing other value-added services under a single freight bill to the ultimate shipper, also known as the beneficial cargo owner (BCO).
By establishing relationships with Class I railroads and motor carriers, IMC's help shippers bypass steps within the intermodal process in regard to finding/organizing intermodal equipment themselves. The end result is an IMC gives the intermodal transportation buyer the operational look and feel of truckload.
The reason IMC's exist is the railroads do not sell intermodal direct, but instead through the IMC network throughout the United States. The model was established because the Class I railroads chose to focus their resources on the equipment and the operations, while the IMC focus on the sales and communications with the ultimate buying customer.
In the IMC relationship, the intermodal buyer is provided a one-stop shop of communication, reporting and execution to all North American Class I railroads. Without an IMC, the shipper would have be required to work with each and every North American Class I Railroad for their intermodal service, since each Class I has tracking in certain regions, as is seen in the below map.
In summary, intermodal marketing companies provide ease for shippers to gain access to the full North American intermodal service network with one call and a single invoice.
There are three types of intermodal IMC's:
The national trade organization IMC's are members of: Intermodal Association of North America (IANA)