Choosing the best transportation mode is a crucial step in shrinking time and cost of moving freight between a shipper and a point of purchase. There are pros and cons to each mode of transportation, depending on the type of freight being moved, and there is an optimal route for every shipment.
Shippers are now turning to intermodal transport for their freight because of intermodal’s advantages. Some shippers are even locating or relocating their DC sites near railways for easy, cheap access to intermodal transport. If you’re unsure what the best method, or combination of methods, for your shipments are here are some pros and cons of each:
The most basic and historical transportation mode.
Broad and flexible road network enables point-to-point service and connects specific activities
Relatively small capital cost, especially on short distances
Quick implementation of new technologies into industry infrastructure
High competition creates low prices and many carrier options
High speed of vehicles enables same- or next-day delivery option
Noise and environmental pollution
High probability of accidents and breakdowns
Growing driver shortage and stressful working conditions for drivers
Limited capacity due to size and weight restrictions imposed by government and technical limits
Congestion, often hard to forecast, which results in delivery delays
Probability of freight damage due to careless transportation that depends greatly on each carrier/driver liability
Ideal transportation mode for bulky freight and long distances.
Environmentally friendly (compared to other modes)
Long-distance routes are cost-effective
Strict timing schedule with minor congestion probability
Suitable for bulky freight and raw materials, carrying capacity is high and elastic
Safest form of transport, highly protected from bad weather impact
Lack of flexibility due to limited routes that cannot be adjusted quickly and easily
Not widespread enough to provide full coverage across country
Cannot provide door-to-door delivery, so requires intermediate loading and unloading that costs lots of time and labor
Lack of competition and monopoly ownership due to huge costs of creating construction and maintenance
The fastest yet most expensive type of transportation.
Small possibility of freight damage due to airport handling and storing regulations
Ideal for perishable goods with strict expiration date
Often is used for quick 24-hour or 48-hour delivery, and additional costs are passed to consignee
Capacity is small, resulting in high transportation costs
Unsuitable for vast majority of bulky and heavy freight types due to custom, security or capacity restrictions
Strictly limited routes and timetable
Additional costs caused by loading/unloading, handling, airport taxes and intermediate delivery
Environmental pollution and dependence on fuel prices
Effective for large freight amounts of non-perishable goods and for enterprises within cities with water access.
Less expensive than other modes, especially for large cargo volumes
Cost doesn’t fluctuate greatly depending on size and shape of cargo
High capacity lets shipper spread costs among other numerous shippers
Can service large amounts of bulky freight at once
Inflexible routes and timetables
Very slow and not suitable for perishable goods or fast delivery
Limited number of ports
Possible delays due to bad weather
Intermodal transport can be effective for just about any large shipment.
Secure and quick delivery thanks to standard container usage for all transportation modes
Combine benefits of different types to create best-suitable solution for specific type of freight and delivery
Less labor for handling of loading and unloading
Reduce air pollution and transportation costs
Possible delays due to factors from each mode and loading/unloading setbacks; shipment cannot be time sensitive
Not suitable for small shipments
Sometimes, dock dues can be applied that increases total cost of transportation
Unable to provide consistent service level
Demand for intermodal transportation is on the rise. Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and many other large companies have relocated their massive DC centers to be nearer intermodal hubs. As trucking capacity shrinks, shippers are trying to avoid the high prices of motor freight carriers. Intermodal transport has proved to be a valuable solution and will continue to grow in popularity.