Intermodal vs. Multimodal Freight


It is important to know the difference between intermodal shipping and multimodal shipping to make sure that you are using the best shipping method for your shipment. Many people often confuse intermodal and multimodal shipping. Deciding when to use intermodal or multimodal transport depends on several factors, such as the total cost difference, time savings, and if the shipper wants multiple independent contacts.

Today, we will be learning the difference between intermodal and multimodal freight and when it is best to use each type of transport.

Intermodal Shipping

Intermodal freight is defined as the transport of freight in a container or vehicle without handling the freight when changing modes. The movement of the cargo from origin to destination is completed by several modes of transport. In intermodal shipping, every mode has a different transport carrier responsible for the shipment. The shipper will have several contracts, one with each transport carrier to handle their portion of the shipment. The different transportation modes of intermodal shipping can include rail, ship, and truck. Using intermodal transport helps to improve security, reduces damage and loss, and allows freight to be transported faster.

Multimodal Shipping


Multimodal is the combination of different types of transport to move a shipment. This can include trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, etc. Even though the shipment is broken up into different modes of transport, it still falls under a single contract/bill of lading. Companies that choose multimodal shipping can handle all shipping delays and interactions through one provider and ease the stress of communicating between different contacts. Some of the main advantages of multimodal transport are efficiency in delivery time and proficient shipment tracking.

There are many different variables to take into consideration when deciding which type of transport is best for you and your shipment. Many people lean towards multimodal because it can provide shippers with a more timely, cost-saving shipping resource. Multimodal freight can also be easier to manage since it is through a single contract, unlike intermodal that is covered by various contracts and modes of transport. Intermodal shipping can provide shippers with lower costs and more predictable pricing.

Both intermodal and multimodal transport can help shippers optimize lead times, reduce inventory costs and improve environmental sustainability. Make sure to weigh the options before deciding which would be best for your company and/or shipment. PLS Logistics has access to various multimodal and intermodal freight modes to help businesses optimize their transportation. Get a quote with PLS today!

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