How Does the Multimodal Brokerage Process Work?


If you’re tired of the stress and headaches that come with organizing a supply chain network, only to have it run into a million snags and inefficiencies along the way, then you’ll want to consider working with a multimodal brokerage. A freight broker or 3PL (third party logistics carrier) handles and manages nearly all of the transportation aspects for you, so you can focus your time and resources on other areas of your business. In particular, a multimodal brokerage functions as your primary contact when shipping freight through multiple transport modes like ground, air, ocean, and rail. If your company doesn’t supply goods in the same exact city in which it sells those goods, you can likely benefit from partnering with a multimodal brokerage.

In this article, we’ll go through how a multimodal brokerage works, what it means for your business, and how Redwood Logistics is the preferred choice of customers across the country.

If you want to work with a multimodal brokerage who is committed to your success, reach out to us now for a free consultation.  


What is multimodal transportation?

Multimodal transport, also called combined transport, is the transportation of freight under a single contract, usually facilitated by a brokerage (like Redwood Logistics). This means that the goods may travel by multiple means of transport, like by both ocean and road or by air and rail, but they are controlled by the same overseeing carrier. This means that one carrier, aka the multimodal brokerage, will facilitate the contracts with sub-carriers, handle all the regulations and insurance needs, and ensure a smooth transition of transport.  


How is this different than intermodal transport?

Intermodal transport looks similar in that it uses multiple modes of transport to move freight. However, intermodal typically doesn’t use an overseeing broker. Rather, you (or the operations side of your business) are responsible for coordinating the different subcontractors and legs of the freight journey. If you don’t have an advanced logistics department with an experienced operations manager and team, synchronizing this kind of transportation, especially internationally, is a challenging feat. That’s why so many companies, both small businesses, and large corporations, choose to instead work with a multimodal brokerage. To learn which is best for you, make sure to read Intermodal or Multimodal, Which is Best?  


How does a multimodal brokerage process work?

Let’s go through a real-world example. There are widgets being shipped from a manufacturer in China to customers in Allentown, Pennsylvania. First, the goods have to be transported by road from the Chinese factory to the port. From there, they are shipped by ocean (in a robo-boat) to a port in San Francisco, California. They are then loaded on a plane and flown across the country to a center in Nashville, Tennessee. From there, they’re sent by rail up to New York City. Finally, the goods are driven to Allentown, PA, where they’ll sit in their distribution center until the last mile logistics process is launched by an order.

These widgets traveled by all four shipping modes: ground, ocean, air, and rail. But the whole time, they were monitored and controlled by a single carrier who facilitated the movement between these different partners. So, for example, Redwood Logistics selected the best ground company in China to load on to the most cost-effective boat. They then handled the customs and tariffs for the goods coming into San Francisco. From there, they coordinated the transfer of goods from boat to plane, and then the movement from the airport to the train station to get to the distribution center in PA.

If you’re overwhelmed by all of those moving pieces, then you understand the purpose of a multimodal brokerage. The brokerage functions as the overseer (and experienced partner) to ensure the goods are shipped quickly, cost-effectively, safely, and in compliance with regulations.  


The multimodal process on your end

One of the greatest benefits of working with a multimodal brokerage is that you can “set it and forget it.” Once you contract freight out to the carrier, like Redwood Logistics, they handle all of the subcontractors and regulations for you. This means you can benefit from the speed and cheap shipping rates of an intermodal shipping system without actually having to do any of the complicated management yourself. Additionally, you’ll have communication at every step of the process. You communicate directly with the primary carrier, so you don’t have to track down each individual subcontractor to make sure every detail is correct about the transport. If there’s a problem, your broker handles it. This level of communication and organization can save your business hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars with each freight transport in reduced costs, resources, and time.

Plus, with all of the new regulations and tariffs and mandates hitting domestic and international shipments, there’s a lot to keep track of. For individual companies, one misstep or mistake could be disastrous. A multimodal brokerage accepts this responsibility (both in terms of accountability and freight insurance) while ensuring they address these regulations with know-how and experience. Essentially, if you deal with a reputable and trusted multimodal carrier, you can create a streamlined transportation network that is fast, cost-efficient, and runs itself without your intervention.

But that’s the key. You want a multimodal carrier that is reputable, trusted, and knows what they’re doing. That’s where Redwood Logistics excels.  


How does Redwood Logistics function as a multimodal brokerage?

The goal of a multimodal brokerage is to optimize your transport while taking the weight of freight operations off your plate. Any 3PL can claim they do that, but there are some unique benefits that come from partnering with an experienced and innovative team like Redwood Logistics’ multimodal brokerage arm. What are the advantages of partnering with Redwood Logistics as a multimodal brokerage?

  • Our brokerage leverages LoadRunner®, which is one of the industry’s best transportation management systems. This offers access to a fleet of hundreds of thousands, which enables greater capacity, better pricing, and a high level of shipment visibility.
  • We use additional innovative technologies as well to ensure the highest possible optimization, analytics, and communication for your supply chain. See our full offerings of logistics technology innovations here.
  • We emphasize transparency at every point along the chain. We offer full EDI for online tracking and automated status updates, so you always know exactly where your freight is. You retain control of your transportation process.
  • Our experienced support team is always available to you. With decades of experience, we know exactly how to solve key transportation issues and supply chain disruptions while continuously innovating to address unique problems with unique solutions. This gives you peace of mind that we’ve got you covered.
  • Our carriers have to pass a rigorous screening process to ensure they meet our safety, compliance, and performance standards. That means you know you’re getting the absolute best with our partnership network.
  • We customize our brokerage plan to you. Whether you need transactional or contractual brokerage or have specific capacity needs, we’ve got you covered.


Connect To Win

Bottom line, our goal is to save you money and save you stress. We know you have thousands of carriers to choose from. What keeps clients coming back to Redwood Logistics is our dedication to their success. We’re not a detached broker who does the bare minimum to take their cut. We believe in building a strong partnership where we are committed to doing what it takes to make your business thrive through our team, assets, technology, and—most notably—our passion. 

Get in touch with a freight specialist and learn how Redwood Logistics’
multimodal network can help your supply chain. Let’s start putting your transportation strategy together.