Trucks, Trains, and Logistics Gains: How Intermodal Shipping Saves E-commerce Retailers Time and Money

Trucks, Trains, and Logistics Gains: How Intermodal Shipping Saves E-commerce Retailers Time and Money

By Nick Bartlett on June 13, 2023
Optimize your shipping with an intermodal tactic.

Today’s e-commerce industry is incredibly global. According to a 2023 study by Forbes, 57% of online shoppers reported shopping internationally. Trust surrounding online purchasing from foreign countries has increased in many regions thanks to things like more secure payment options, better tracking technology, and increasingly developed worldwide networks for logistics.

However, just because it is now possible to sell to foreign companies faster and cheaper than in the past, it still doesn’t mean that it is an easy thing for most e-commerce businesses to do. 

Operating efficient logistics over long distances is expensive and takes careful planning. You need to figure out what modes of transport you should use at what points for peak efficiency— not to mention backups if something goes wrong with the mode you’ve chosen.

To improve efficiency when shipping over long distances, many companies choose an intermodal shipping tactic. Intermodal simply refers to shipping using two or more modes of transportation, such as truckload, rail, and ship. 

While the idea of coordinating rail, truck, ship, and plane transport for a single shipment might send your head spinning, nailing intermodal shipping can help you reduce costs, increase agility, engage in environmentally responsible shipping, and give you the tools you need to expand your e-commerce business to new markets.

Read about CBIP's Adaptable 4PL Logistics Services

When should you use intermodal?

While varying the modes of transportation you use for shipping comes with all kinds of advantages, you still need to consider if it makes sense for you.

Here are some of the factors that point to intermodal as the right choice for your shipment.

When it’s far:

Typically, intermodal is most efficient for journeys of 400 miles or more. If you only need to transport your shipment a short distance over land, using truckload on its own may be your best option.

When you are transporting high-value goods:

In 2022, the total value of stolen cargo was estimated at $223 million

While it may seem safer to keep your goods in the hands of one trucker throughout the journey, that trucker will have to take breaks and leave your goods unaccompanied at some point during the long journey. When part of the journey is taking place on a train, the consistent speed and 

challenge of opening a rail car make theft much more difficult.

When it's not too heavy:

Weight restrictions for intermodal are lower than for truckload alone, topping out at around 2,500 pounds dependent on what region you are in. 

Be careful to check local weight limits for rail freight before you opt to ship your product this way, or you may be stuck with fines. If your shipment exceeds the rail weight limit, you may be forced to ship using another mode of transportation.

RELATED: How Technology is Transforming Logistics: The Shipping Edition

Why choose intermodal?

Intermodal may seem complex, but with the right tactic, it can be a much safer, faster, and more eco-friendly way to ship.

Cost savings

When you are shipping over long distances, combining different modes of transportation is almost always the most cost-efficient method. On average, shippers can save anywhere from 10 to 40% by converting truckload transport to intermodal rail shipping.

Flexibility for fluctuating conditions

For any e-commerce company, demand fluctuates throughout the year surrounding holidays, season changes, and market conditions. Particularly considering the wild fluctuations in demand over the past few years, flexibility should be a key consideration when it comes to deciding what shipping methods to use. 

As demand fluctuates, you can change which transportation mode you use depending on the volumes your need to ship. For instance, when your volume increases, you can take advantage of lower rail rates to ship your products further and spend less.


A train can move one ton of freight around 500 miles on only one gallon of fuel, whereas a truck would need nearly 70 gallons of fuel to go the same distance. Swapping some of your shipping journey out with rail transport can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

Work with CBIP to get all the cost-saving benefits without the hassle

Want to get more efficient and eco-friendly when shipping long-distance, without having to work out all the nitty gritty logistics details? Hand it off to us at CBIP, your go-to for end-to-end, sustainable logistics solutions, and logistics consulting. 

As your trusted fourth-party provider, we will figure out the best possible mixture of different transportation modes for your shipments. Plus, we work with you to continually manage your logistics and consult with you on your goals, making sure that we update your solution based on business changes and demand fluctuations.

Want to find out how CBIP can design the best intermodal plan for your e-commerce logistics? Contact us today for a free consultation. 

About Author

Nick Bartlett

Nick Bartlett is CBIP’s director of sales and marketing. His expertise lies in marketing, supply chain management, and corporate retail experience. He honed his skills over 10+ years working across the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

Nick keeps a close eye on new markets and believes successful business operations come through value-based relationships.


Powered by the latest in logistics technology

Asia’s first carbon-neutral 4PL firm

We are an extension to your in-house logistics team

Our Service

E-Commerce Logistics

Full-Service Logistics


Subscribe Now

Get the latest insights from the CBIP team on global logistics & supply chain.

Grow your business with a partner that puts your needs first. Schedule a Call Today

Please enter a valid business email.


Every e-commerce brand or seller is a little different. So, the best way for us to provide you with a detailed quote is to fill out our online questionnaire here and from here we can walk you through the various options available to you with CBIP Logistics.

No, we do not charge the higher fee associated with long-term storage. No matter how long the goods remain in our warehouse. They are charged the same rate for inventory storage.

Yes! We can store your inventory and replenish Amazon as necessary, helping you adhere to Amazon’s strict rules and regulations for packaging, labeling and shipping.

We charge for storage by either cubic meter, sqft or per pallet / racking space per week. It depends on the request from the customer as one-size doesn’t fit all. It would be better if you schedule a call with us

We provide a variety of services in the logistics landscape which includes Ocean Freight, Airfreight, Domestic Delivery, Warehouse & Distribution and Customs Clearance & Brokerage.

We offer several types of warehouses that are tailored to your requirements and vary among countries, e.g. Bonded Warehouse, General Warehouse, Consolidated Warehouse and Distribution Center.

Yes, you can track it from our platform by using the “Log In” function and access to “B2B” which is dedicated to track any shipment you have with us. This is a real-time platform which integrates with some major carriers so from here you can get the visibility of vessels on the globe map.

  • Origin Management: digital PO management and connected suppliers supported by agnostic 3PL vendor management capabilities.

  • Shipment Tracker: real time tracking also vessel tracking to let you know where the goods are.

  • Destination Management: platform manage the delivery to Distribution Centre and update frequently on platform.

  • Paperless Handling: we centralize the document hub on the platform for shipment-by-shipment. From here you can get the full documentation of a particular shipment within a click.

We offer the consulting services to enterprises who looking for either:

  • Optimizing their existing operations for cost, operation & performance effectiveness.

  • Scale their B2C or B2B business

Yes, our consulting services range from completing assessments on existing business, strategy & planning, tendering & RFP development, vendor selection and transitions & special projects.

Every business, we have a dedicated Account Manager who is the focal contact point that you can get in touch for daily operation.

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are any gases that contribute to climate change through the effect of global warming (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and more). As more of these gases are released, the atmosphere traps more heat from the sun every year. This is causing the climate to change. GHGs and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are often used interchangeably with carbon emissions when talking about the climate.

Like most websites CBIP uses cookies in order to optimize your experience and deliver a more responsive user experience. These cookies are safe and secure, and we only use this data within the CBIP Organization. Privacy Policy