Lesson 5: Intermodal Freight Movement Process - Navigating the Supply Chain

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The intermodal freight movement process involves a series of coordinated steps to transport goods seamlessly across different modes of transportation. In this article, we will explore the intricacies of the intermodal freight movement process, providing insight into the key stages and considerations involved in navigating the supply chain.

Booking and Scheduling:

  1. Shipment Booking:
    • The process begins with the shipper booking the transportation of goods with an intermodal carrier or logistics provider.
    • Shippers provide details such as origin, destination, cargo type, dimensions, and weight to facilitate accurate planning and scheduling.
  2. Route Planning and Optimization:
    • Intermodal carriers and logistics providers utilize route optimization software to determine the most efficient transportation routes and modes based on factors such as transit time, cost, and capacity.
    • Route planning also considers factors such as terminal operations, equipment availability, and service schedules to minimize delays and maximize efficiency.

Cargo Handling and Transfer:

  1. Origin Pickup:
    • Freight is picked up from the shipper's facility or designated location by the carrier or trucking company.
    • Goods are loaded onto intermodal equipment such as containers or trailers, securely packed and sealed for transit.
  2. Intermodal Terminal Operations:
    • At the origin terminal, intermodal equipment is transferred between different modes of transport, such as trucks and trains.
    • Terminal operators use specialized equipment such as cranes, lifts, and conveyors to load and unload containers and trailers from railcars and trucks.

Transit and Movement:

  1. Long-Haul Transportation:
    • Intermodal containers and trailers are transported via rail or ocean vessels over long distances between origin and destination terminals.
    • Railroads and shipping lines operate scheduled services connecting major industrial centers, ports, and distribution hubs.
  2. Last-Mile Delivery:
    • Upon arrival at the destination terminal, intermodal equipment is transferred to trucks for final delivery to the consignee's facility or destination.
    • Trucking companies coordinate pickup and delivery operations, ensuring timely and accurate delivery of goods to their final destination.

Documentation and Tracking:

  1. Documentation Management:
    • Throughout the freight movement process, carriers and logistics providers manage documentation such as bills of lading, shipping manifests, and customs declarations.
    • Accurate and timely documentation is essential for regulatory compliance, customs clearance, and invoicing purposes.
  2. Real-Time Tracking and Visibility:
    • Advanced tracking and telematics systems provide real-time visibility into the location, status, and condition of intermodal shipments.
    • Shippers and consignees can track their freight using online portals or mobile applications, enabling proactive monitoring and exception management.


The intermodal freight movement process involves a complex and interconnected series of steps to transport goods efficiently and reliably across different modes of transportation. By understanding the key stages and considerations involved in navigating the supply chain, shippers, carriers, and logistics providers can optimize their operations, minimize delays, and deliver value to customers in the global marketplace. Effective coordination, communication, and technology integration are essential for ensuring smooth and seamless intermodal freight movement from origin to destination.


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