Choosing the Best Intermodal and Multimodal 3PLs

intermodal and multimodal

Sometimes it is best to simply trust an expert to complete certain tasks on your behalf. Whether it's having a professional mechanic fix your car, a doctor provide medication to cure an ailment, or just trusting an airline pilot to get you safely to your destination, experts make life so much easier. Never has this been more important than when it comes to intermodal and multimodal shipments.

When it comes to scheduling intermodal or multimodal, the expert that most shippers trust to handle all the details is a 3PL company. 

And as the 2020 fiscal year quickly approaches, shippers are budgeting and setting up new contracts. If you had to deal with intermodal and multimodal shipments in the past year, you know it is a complex endeavor. With each passing year, it seems the competition is getting fiercer. Why not offload some of that proverbial weight onto a dedicated 3PL company?

In this blog post, we are outlining a few of the most important tips and criteria that any shipper can use to locate the right 3rd party logistics company to handle all their intermodal and multiple-modal shipment needs!  


Breaking Down the Facts About Intermodal & Multimodal Shipping 

It's likely that you understand the difference between intermodal and multimodal. But in case you need a refresher, here ya go!

When you must combine at least two different modes of transportation or use multiple carriers to ship products internationally, there are two ways of accomplishing this task.  


This type of freight movement includes using different modes of transportation to ship single or multiple containers. This container(s) is never opened and the goods are never transferred into a new container. The original container holds the products for the entirety of the trip.

Intermodal shipping is mostly utilized for long-haul US or cross border shipping operations into Canada or Mexico.  



The multimodal shipment mode also uses at least two modes of transportation.

However, it is managed quite a good bit different. For starters, all multimodal movements are overseen by a multimodal transport operator (MTO). This company or individual will be responsible for the complete movement of freight from the point of origin to its destination. And unlike intermodal shipments, the products may be removed from their containers to fit more properly on another type of carrier.

The MTO is your sole contact but they utilize carriers or contractors that are already a part of their own network. There is a single contract and therefore, much, much, much less frustration or potential for errors. 


Why a 3PL is Best Suited to Handle These Movements 

A third-party logistics company is an expert in the logistics world. The keyword in that last sentence is WORLD, as in global shipping and logistics. They understand the ebb and flow of moving products throughout the international supply chain. They know the rules and regulations of international shipping, specific countries, even territories within those countries. 

How do they do all of this you ask? Because that is their sole purpose, and they have the experience that many shippers lack.

A third-party logistics company also maintains incredible relationships with multiple carrier mode providers. They can negotiate shipping rates on behalf of their clients and even set up customized freight movement solutions. They are there to help you from the moment it is time to decide which mode to use, right down to the minute it is delivered!  


What to Look for in Intermodal and Multimodal 3PL Companies 

If you're looking to hire a 3PL to manage these two complex freight movements, there are a few important details to consider.  


Do they have a proven track record with intermodal and multimodal shipping?

If you're going to hire a doctor to take care of you, it's important to verify that they are accredited to do so - right? When it comes to moving freight internationally with different modes of transportation, you are trusting a 3PL to take care of your freight. Any company that you trust to manage these freight movements should have detailed experience with both. If a 3PL is just an expert with multimodal shipping, they don't understand the value that intermodal shipping provides. And as such, they are unable to provide you with practical options for comparison. 


Do they use advanced technology?

Today's freight movements depend on quick and accurate monitoring of the entire process. Whether you are complying with international shipping regulations, insurance protection, or most importantly updating your customer or freight recipient on the freight movement, using advanced technology to track and notify all stakeholders is crucial. Make sure that any 3PL you hire makes the most use of current technology for intermodal and multimodal freight movements. 


Do they understand your industry? Finally, every type of business is unique and has different shipping needs.

If there is one truth about the supply chain, it is that one size does not fit all. This is especially crucial with international shipping and using different modes of transportation. An experienced 3PL is going to know which freight movement is best for your individual needs.  


Final Thoughts

As the new fiscal year approaches, and you're preparing to find the right partners for intermodal or multimodal transportation, contact Redwood Logistics first! Let our experts help you form a solid game plan to achieve it!