Intermodal vs. over-the-road: Completing the trip
So far, we’ve covered the expenses associated with each type of trucking, what a carrier needs to find loads & where to pick up the freight, how to check in at each location, and how to check the equipment before the trip begins. What’s left? Completing the actual trip!
Once all of the check-in processes are complete and the freight is picked up, the carrier is on the road. The only difference between over-the-road and intermodal trips here is the length of time the carrier is driving. For intermodal, most trips don’t go over 500 miles total. That even includes the mileage coming back home. The rails cover most of the mileage for an intermodal trip, so carriers are only picking up either the first or last leg of the trip.
Over-the-road trips are pretty different, with the average trip being a little over 500 miles for just the haul, not taking into account the drive back, which could make it around 1,000 miles total if the carrier is going right back home. The issue with such a lengthy drive out for a long-haul run is if the carrier can’t find another load that brings them back in the direction they came from, they’ll end up traveling hundreds of miles back unpaid. These empty miles can certainly add up quickly, and if they decide to find other work in that area, they may not be home for days to come.
Intermodal trips bring a less risky alternative since the drive out is less, saving miles if the carrier ends up driving back empty. Even if an intermodal carrier drives back home without another load, they can still get paid for the entire round trip. With DrayNow, the total mileage is factored into the trip price, and the carrier will see that round-trip mileage before requesting the load. And that’s on top of the ability to street turn intermodal containers. What is a street turn? It’s when a carrier uses the empty container from a delivery to then pick up another load nearby before finally heading to the termination location for that container.
What does a carrier do with the equipment once they’re done with a trip? If it’s an intermodal run, the carrier has to return the container and chassis to the rail yard, whether the container is loaded or empty. For long-haul trucking, the carrier may be providing the trailer and dry van, so nothing else is needed to be done. If the trailer was owned by the warehouse, they would just leave it there and then bobtail out. Either way, they’re good to go on to their next venture once that trip is completed.
There you have it! We’ve gone over the entire lifecycle of a trucking trip, pointing out the key differences between intermodal and over-the-road trips each step of the way. For an easy way to access every article in this series, check out our general overview of each topic.
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