It’s a question you face nearly every day. How to handle surge volume demands for perishable cargo across all lanes? The next question to ask is, “have I considered rail transportation solutions?” Given the recent changes in federal laws governing trucks, ongoing market pressures, and advances in carrier technology, intermodal is now becoming the mode of choice for many perishable shippers. Perhaps you’re already well-acquainted with intermodal transportation, have used it in particular market situations, and feel comfortable with the service when the need arises. For those new to intermodal, consider the following points when looking at diversifying your carrier base.
1. You face seasonal market fluctuations. Every market is different from year to year. No two seasons are identical. However, you have enough experience to know when it’s likely that your particular lanes will face a seasonal surge in demand. Rather than gritting your teeth, closing your eyes, and rolling the dice, consider planning ahead with a perishable intermodal approach. Take the offense in your transportation strategy and get in front of a market surge. Integrating refrigerated rail solutions can help you manage seasonal “over the road” capacity constraints.
2. You want more flexible transportation options. Customizing loads is becoming easier, as many short- to mid-haul lanes throughout the U.S. have become more conducive to intermodal. Also, intermodal equipment is now very sophisticated. For example, increased shock resistance provides greater stability, which has increased the range of products that are now regularly carried. Also, temperature and GPS tracking (via EDI) can keep a “real time” pulse on your perishables. With these recent advancements, perishable intermodal has become much more applicable across a diverse range of products and lanes.
3. You want to encourage an environmentally sustainable transportation strategy. An intermodal approach typically uses significantly less diesel fuel and results in less CO2 emissions compared to trucks. That said, you can also find ways to make truck usage more sustainable. C.H. Robinson is an active member of the EPA’s SmartWay network, which offers a legion of certified carriers focused on energy efficiency.
4. You want to minimize overall transportation risk. Risk is an inherent part of all forms of transportation. There are multiple risks that are out of our control—fuel price volatility, truck shortages, and weather patterns. With an intermodal approach, however, risks are mitigated across more diverse lanes, modes, and carriers. As financial analysts and self-help gurus alike profess, “You cannot eliminate risk, only manage it.” Using intermodal to balance out your perishable transportation portfolio is a smart bet; think of it as another tool in your tool belt to help you better service your customers.
Want to learn more about intermodal? Watch this video and reach out to me with any questions.