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Intermodal vs. Multimodal Transportation

Intermodal and multimodal transportation both involve moving cargo and shipments from one location to another through various methods such as ship, truck, rail, or barge. There are features and benefits to both modes of transportation, depending on the needs of your business and cargo. Read on to learn more about the differences between intermodal and multimodal transportation.

Intermodal Shipping

shipping containers on a cargo ship at night

Intermodal shipping is defined as cargo being transported by several people or modes of transportation. There are multiple carriers throughout the shipping journey who will have independent contracts. Intermodal shipping has a significant amount of involvement and coordination with each carrier to ensure that the cargo is going where it needs to.


Intermodal shipping advantages include the following:

Sustainable: It can be more sustainable to choose who your providers are. Some providers and modes of transportation are better for the environment and can reduce carbon emissions. By choosing environmentally friendly carriers, you can increase efficiency and reduce costs by streamlining the supply chain. It can also give vehicles a longer life.

Fast: Having the option of selecting what method of transportation can allow you to choose the quickest way.

Road Safety: With multiple carriers and modes of transport, roads are less congested, reducing traffic and waste that would typically be produced.

Cost Effective: There is always an option to choose a carrier with lower rates. You can do your own research to determine the best carrier with the best deal.

shipping containers near a dock on a cloudy day

Multimodal Transportation

Multimodal transportation is defined as having several modes of transportation used by the same carrier. Each mode has a different carrier or single carrier with one contract. The same carrier will move the shipment through all modes of transportation.


Multimodal shipping advantages include the following:

Coordination: The benefit of having one contract under one carrier is that they will be easy to follow up with about the process and what their contract entails. It can be tracked and easily monitored with one carrier transporting.

Security: Because there is one carrier, your shipment’s security will increase. This gives the carrier the responsibility and liability of a situation where damage or theft takes place. One carrier can be held solely responsible and will help with losses.

Savings: One carrier may reduce costs and allow the cargo to be shipped more efficiently since it is through one contract. It can be done through their multiple modes of transportation, and they can choose the best and quickest option for both parties.

Accessibility: There is more access to remote parts of the world that only specific transportation methods and carriers can reach.

Intermodal transportation and multimodal transportation do have some of the same advantages. Some of these include efficient transportation, reduction of inventory and freight costs, and increased sustainability. Whether you use intermodal or multimodal transportation, ensure your choice will meet your needs. Here at Northstar Transport Services, our primary focus has always been with our customer. We realized through the implementation of strategic company goals which focus on commitment to service we can do the best job of meeting our customers’ requirements in the most efficient and cost-effective manner with the same value-added service they have come to expect. Visit our website for more information!

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