Environmentally friendly. Shippers can significantly reduce their carbon footprint by going intermodal, because trains only emit approximately 5.4 pounds of carbon dioxide per 100 ton-miles, whereas trucks emit approximately 19.8 pounds.
Reliability, capacity, and safety advantages. Shippers have more access to equipment and standardized transit schedules. As companies move their freight to intermodal, there is also the opportunity to streamline their reverse logistics, providing additional savings.
Intermodal freight transport involves the transportation of freight in an intermodal container or vehicle, using multiple modes of transportation (rail, ship, and truck), without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The method reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damage and loss, and allows freight to be transported faster. Reduced costs over road trucking is the key benefit for inter-continental use. This may be offset by reduced timings for road transport over shorter distances.
Rail transportation is typically used for long-distance shipping. Rail is less expensive than air transportation and it offers about the same delivery speed as trucks over long distances. Increased rail use reflects recent trends of businesses to use rail even to move more time-sensitive goods, such as vehicle parts and automobiles. Motor transportation is readily available and well suited for transporting goods over short distances. Transportation by trucks is the dominant means of shipping in the United States. Air transportation offers the advantages of speed and long-distance transport. Air transport is also the most expensive means of transportation and is generally used for smaller items of relatively high value or items in which the speed of arrival is important. These items include electronic equipment and perishable goods. A disadvantage of air transportation is its lack of accessibility. A plane cannot ordinarily be pulled up to a loading dock which means it is necessary to bring products to and from the airport by truck.
Rail: The rail transportation network in the United States included about 120,000 miles of major rail lines in the late 1990s, on which carriers transported an estimated 1.3 million tons of freight annually. Trains are ideally suited for shipping bulk products, and can be adapted to meet specific product needs through the use of specialized cars—i.e., tankers for liquids, refrigerated cars for perishables, and cars fitted with ramps for automobiles.
Rail transportation is typically used for long-distance shipping. Less expensive than air transportation, it offers about the same delivery speed as trucks over long distances and exceeds transport speeds via marine waterways. In fact, deregulation and the introduction of freight cars with larger carrying capacities has enabled rail carriers to make inroads in several areas previously dominated by motor carriers. But access to the network remains a problem for many businesses.
Rail, which carried about 4 percent of shipments, measured by value, and 12 percent of the weight, hauls not only bulk goods but also time-sensitive goods such as machinery, automobiles and parts, and perishables such as produce over long distances. Rail carried more than one-quarter of the total ton-miles,