What Are Intermodal Drayage and Cross Docking Services?

While much of commercial freight is handled with door-to-door drayage services by truck, cargo can actually pass through a variety of different transport methods before it arrives at the end customers.  Containers can travel by ship or vessel, trucks or trains, and increasingly through airplane drayage for less than container loads, and palletized goods, and require cross-docking services.   

Canal Cartage has built a reputation since 1983, as a leading provider of cost-effective intermodal drayage services for domestic freight inbound or outbound from the Port of Houston, Texas.  

What Kind of Goods and Materials Are Commonly Shipped by Intermodal Rail? 

There are many advantages to used port, to truck and then rail intermodal services.  How you decide to transport your freight will depend on a number of factors, including the type of cargo, the volume, and your delivery schedule.  

Delivery by train takes longer.  However, it saves time because it requires less manpower, and simply involves transferring the container or bulk materials to a railway freight hub, where it can be picked up by a logistics provider and delivered to the customer at the destination.  

Raw materials such as metal, gravel, soil, and coal are frequently transported in bulk containers by rail.  If a commercial business has a number of containers arriving at the same time, transmodal services by rail offer the most cost-saving advantages.  The cargo will arrive at the same destination, at the same time, rather than dispatching separate truck deliveries for each container.  

Each container is outfitted with technology that provides a GPS location of the cargo for the customer. No matter where the container is, the customer can log into a portal and see a report of the location and estimated delivery date and time for their commercial freight.  

Much of the cost savings involved in choosing transmodal rail for drayage, is in the reduced fuel costs.  Trains do not have to stop like trucks do, and rail scheduled are rarely impacted by inclement weather conditions.  Commercial businesses also enjoy a reduced rate on fuel costs for their drayage, and it is more ecologically friendly if cargo will be traveling a long distance.  

When Would You Want to Use Intermodal Drayage? 

If you are thinking of choosing intermodal drayage for imported or exported goods, here are a few guidelines and tips to consider: 

  • If you are routinely importing or exporting the same type or selection of cargo, and that supply chain flow needs to be continuous (inconsistent quantities) intermodal rail drayage may be a good option for your business. 
  • Freight moving more than 300 miles or longer than one-day of travel is more economical when it is shipped using intermodal rail.  
  • Intermodal freight that is most suitable for rail transportation are finished goods in load units of less than 25 tons.  

Lower or intermediate value freight is a good choice for intermodal drayage.  Higher value cargo is usually sent by a truck on a more direct route, and for security purposes, where it can be supervised by the dispatched truck driver at all times.  

What Are Cross Docking Services and When Do You Need Them? 

For some commercial businesses, cross-docking is used as part of standard operations for every shipment of freight, and for others, it is only used when necessary.  It is a supply chain strategy that can help businesses save money.  

Cross-docking refers to the process of moving cargo from a truck (or railcar) to another truck, at a cross-docking warehouse.  Palletized goods and FCL loads can wait in a secure location, to be consolidated with other freight for the same business. Containers may also be picked up from Port of Houston, and delivered to a warehouse, where the goods are separated and unloaded if they will be freight forwarded to different destinations.  This is often the case with retail goods that have been imported to stock multiple locations.  

What Are the Key Reason’s Businesses Choose Cross Docking Services from Canal Cartage in Houston? 

1.  The scheduled delivery has been altered and the good are either arriving late or early.  In both scenarios where the container is being delivered by truck cartage, the alternative would be to have the dispatched truck driver wait.  Not only does that get expensive for the customer, but it also creates problems for the carrier’s schedule.  It is a streamlined process that allows the container to be picked up and consolidated for delivery, to save on expenses for the commercial customer.  

2. You have mixed freight within the container on a trailer.  Unfortunately, when containers are packed, sometimes the goods your business needs first (packaged on pallets) may be stuck at the back and behind other cargo.  Cross-docking allows the logistics company to securely open the container, unload goods and then separate the freight that needs to be shipped right away. Pallets that aren’t needed yet can be safely stored, to expedite urgent delivery needs.  

3. Overweight trucks can be a problem, and they happen every day at Port of Houston, Texas.  When a container has been over packed, or the gross weight has not been accurately logged, it can actually be illegal for a logistics company to dispatch it.  At Canal Cartage, we do provide heavy-weight chassis and light trailers that are specialized for heavy loads and comply with regulations.  

In the case of overweight cargo, the container can be opened at a cross-docking location and split into two separate shipments to avoid legal problems.  

4. You have a variety of goods coming from multiple vendors through the Port of Houston, but you want to wait until all the cargo has arrived, and then consolidate it into one or more containers for standard delivery.  

5. If you are shipping temperature-sensitive items, such as candy and chocolate, you may need to cross-dock your pallets in a climate-controlled location, to reduce damage or spoilage.  

6. You plan to ship multiple containers of palletized goods by transmodal rail and need a warehouse location to store the goods to consolidate them in one shipment.  

There are many options to consider whether you are importing for your first FCL or LCL shipment through the Port of Houston.  At Canal Cartage, we are more than a logistics provider; we’re your partner in providing quality drayage services, transmodal, and cross-docking, with a large secure warehouse in La Porte, Texas.  Contact us today to learn more about our drayage services.  

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