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What is the difference between over-the-road and intermodal trucking?

When you picture the life of a trucker, that vision may include a cross-country journey that keeps the driver on the road for a long period of time and far away from home. These long haul truckers spend most of their lives out on the road.

That scenario describes exactly what OTR (over-the-road) trucking is. OTR truck drivers typically bring freight from one warehouse to another by truck, traveling very long distances. These trips can be anywhere from several hundred to even thousands of miles and can require the driver to be on the road for days at a time. However, that’s not the only type of trucking out there.

What is intermodal trucking? Intermodal trucking (also known as drayage) refers to the transportation of freight by a driver to and from a rail or port for the next leg of the trip. Instead of dry vans, carriers will be hauling containers under their own authority. Intermodal loads typically go from the rail, then to a warehouse and finally back to the rail. This is the first or last mile in a container’s trip from one destination to another. This type of transportation utilizes the railways and ports all over the country for the main portion of travel.

Rail transportation has a negative connotation of being antiquated, but it’s actually more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly than going over-the-road. Freight railroads can move one ton of freight up to 475 miles on one gallon of fuel. On the other hand, tractors average about 7 miles per gallon. Driving intermodal as opposed to over-the-road would keep fuel costs down and keep drivers closer to their original location.

With OTR, there’s also the increased risk of wear and tear on the truck. Driving hundreds to even thousands of miles per trip is costly in both fuel and the life expectancy of the truck. Intermodal trucking carriers are putting in less mileage per trip so they are keeping fuel costs down and minimizing the potential of having to spend money on frequent repairs and total engine overhauls. And in the event of something going wrong while on the road, wouldn’t you rather get repairs done locally than far away from home by someone you don’t know?

“There’s a big difference between gross and actual pay, and even though an OTR driver might gross more, all of the costs they are undertaking generally make the take home pay less than intermodal.

Unless a street turn is picked up, OTR drivers typically have to deadhead for a good part of the trip before they can find a load to get home. Empty miles eat away at profits. Not only does intermodal trucking solve this problem by keeping all hauls local, DrayNow can identify street turns for owner operators and let them know if there’s an opportunity to make more money going the same distance.

The allure of high rates for over-the-road hauls can draw anyone in, but it’s always important to look at the price versus the expense that the carrier would be taking on. Once everything’s added up, the carrier is paying a major cut of their earnings to the costs incurred just by driving. There’s a big difference between gross and actual pay, and even though an owner operator running over-the-road freight might gross more, all of the costs they are undertaking generally make the take home pay less than intermodal. With the DrayNow load board app and intermodal in general, carriers are getting more $ per mile than those participating in over-the-road trucking. To put it simply, OTR truckers are incurring the same amount of depreciation and fuel prices as intermodal drayage carriers but are being paid less for it.

In a changing world, there is great opportunity in hauling local intermodal loads. Having a career in trucking does not need to consist of long hauls especially if short-haul trucking is paying more per mile. And DrayNow is providing the technology that makes connecting with those local hauls easier.

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