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5 myths of intermodal shipping in Canada (and why it may be your best option)

Intermodal shipping in Canada in no longer just a good option.

In many cases, it’s now your best option.

All across Canada, a combination of rail and truck freight is the most efficient and cost effective shipping option.

But not all shippers have made the switch to intermodal transportation.


Because there’s still many old misconceptions.

The use of rail shipping is often seen as slow and inefficient.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to Jim Brown, General Manger, JSRB Logistics Consulting Ltd., "In many transportation corridors, shipping by rail or a combination of rail and truck, provides a more efficient and better dollar value.”

With over 47 years of freight forwarding experience, Brown’s provides insights on why some shippers have still not made the move to rail.


What is intermodal shipping?


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.

Advantages to intermodal include:

  • reduced cargo handling,
  • improved security,
  • reduced damage and loss, and
  • faster transportation.

So why aren't more shippers using intermodal in Canada?

Here are five misconceptions preventing more use:


1. With Canada’s vast size, transit time for rail freight is slow

Many years ago, shipping by rail was slow . . .very slow.

Today, it’s a different story.

Canada’s railways are fast and efficient.

Rail transportation lanes are most often only a day behind truckload shipping.


2. Unreliable delivery times

Intermodal lanes in Canada can be timed right down to the minute. Literally.

So is rail freight in Canada unreliable? Definitely not.


3. Increased chance of damage

CP Rail and CN Rail have an excellent reputation across North America for the care of freight.

With both railways, you can be sure that freight is properly secured before shipping.

In fact, the risk of damage via railways is often lower than highway transit.

With highway transport, harsh Canadian winters, accidents and a traffic backlog can put cargo at risk.



4. Difficult to reach all locations because of Canada's size

Rail can reach all major inland ports, seaports and metropolitan centres across Canada.

No exceptions.


5. Difficulty tracking shipments

Canada’s transportation infrastructure is state-of-the-art. Real-time tracking of intermodal shipments in Canada are an everyday part of doing business.


Intermodal shipments in Canada are as common place as Tim Horton’s coffee.

So if you’ve stayed away from shipping by intermodal, maybe it’s time to reconsider.

Do you use intermodal? If so what are your reasons for using? If not, how come?

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About The Author

Shari Fenn
Shari Fenn
Shari is a member of the Calgary Region's transportation, supply chain and logistics content development team. She is a communications strategist, storyteller, professional writer and champion for inbound content marketing. Shari has a professional background in communications that includes clients such as VIA Rail Canada and Calgary Regional Partnership's regional transit brand, On-It. Shari is passionate about developing relevant, remarkable and authentic content.