Intermodal transportation uses a combination of two or more carrier options to move around 25 million containers each year. With some clear benefits including cost-saving and time-efficiency, greater scalability, and reduced risk, the environmental advantages of intermodal are perhaps most interesting and surprising of all.
While a multi-carrier approach to transporting freight might not sound the most environmentally friendly, in fact, the opposite is true.
For companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint, intermodal might just provide the solution. Here’s how it shapes up.
Intermodal Fuel Consumption and Carbon Footprint
Freight trains are an often crucial part of intermodal transportation. Their increased fuel-efficiency over long-haul freight trucks helps to cut down the fuel needed to transport the shipment and reduces its overall carbon footprint.
Trains operate at a higher speed and capacity than OTR while experiencing decreased air resistance so they are able to do more work using less energy. This of course cuts costs, but from an environmental standpoint more importantly reduces emissions and the need for fossil fuels.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that replacing OTR with intermodal rail for shipments further than 1,000 miles will cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 65%.
Once trucks are required, the shorter distances and flexibility necessary for that leg of the journey mean smaller trucks become the better option. These tend to be more fuel-efficient than their larger diesel-powered counterparts helping to further increase the environmental advantages of choosing intermodal transport.
For overseas shipping, modern cargo ships are able to carry more of the space-efficient intermodal containers per load, reducing the need for additional trips. The efficiency of the containers has a knock-on effect to loading and unloading time, reducing the need for additional resources at port.
Intermodal shipping uses containers made from steel or aluminum for weight reduction and increased space efficiency. These hard-wearing materials can be reused over and over, eliminating the need for single-use palettes or other shipping materials.
When they’re no longer fit for shipping, many are repurposed into storage containers, on-site offices or quirky small houses. Failing that both steel and aluminum can be recycled, allowing them to take on another life and preventing a build-up in landfill.
The reusable materials used in intermodal shipping help to reduce its impact on the planet and are yet another environmental advantage to a multi-transport system.
Impact on Air Pollution
Contrary to what you might think, shipping via multiple transport options reduces air pollution.
Intermodal reduces the number of diesel-powered freight trucks on the roads by prioritizing trains for the majority of the domestic shipping journey. This helps to reduce congestion on highways and in and around cities and prevent a build up of idle traffic. Reducing traffic on the road and opting for more fuel efficient means of transportation lowers the levels of air pollution.
As the world sets tighter emission targets and implements new environmental policies, intermodal could become the greener future of transportation. At CIE Manufacturing we continue to lead the intermodal evolution by bringing our customers cutting-edge technology and advanced processes to aid in their intermodal shipping journey. Contact us to find out how we can help your business succeed today.