What is intermodal transportation for wine importers?
Moving wine, beer or spirits across the many large landlocked regions of Europe, Asia, and the Americas is no easy task. For example, wine from Napa Valley must travel 2,800-mile (4,506 km) to reach the East Coast in the U.S. In countries where sea freight isn’t a viable option, it’s either trucks, trains, or - better yet - a combination of the two, also known as intermodal transportation.
“Intermodal shipping is simply more cost-efficient compared to trucking,” says Patrick Bradley, Vice President of Operations at Vintage Imports Inc. “There is a lot more to factor into the coordination of lead times and delivery at destination warehouses, but intermodal shipping is the best option.”
The Pennsylvania-based company imports wine from around the globe, but transporting anything from the West Coast to the East Coast in a country with limited railways is no easy task. That’s why Vintage Imports has relied on Hillebrand Gori for intermodal shipping for over 20 years.
Intermodal shipping is a type of multimodal shipping, which entails more than one mode of transportation. The process of moving containers from one mode of transportation to another is called intermodal transfer. In intermodal shipping, containers are transferred without unpacking or reloading the contents. A freight forwarder manages the entire journey, including coordinating logistics and documentation.
Before the FCL journey begins, your wine, beer or spirits are loaded into a shipping container, where it remains until delivery. Since fluctuations in temperature and humidity can spoil your beverages, freight forwarders like Hillebrand Gori offer dry containers, insulated containers, or refrigerated containers so you can choose the most appropriate container type to protect your beverages as it travels through different climates.
In truck-to-train journeys, containers are transferred from the winery, brewery or distillery by truck to a rail terminal. Your wine isn’t handled when changing modes – the whole container is moved from road to rail. This is what makes the transport intermodal.
In the U.S., different companies control the railways for specific regions, and a lot of these rail networks come together in Chicago. Railways in the E.U. are standardized so that freight can move seamlessly between borders, minimizing railway transfers.
Intermodal transportation can involve truck-to-plane, truck-to-ship, or some other combination of transport.
Intermodal transportation requires careful logistical planning. Freight forwarders like Hillebrand Gori coordinate with all parties to ensure that each step of the journey goes smoothly.
“We rely heavily on both the visibility and reporting tools in myHillebrandGori,once we see the rail cargo completes the Chicago interchange on eastbound loads, then we plan delivery at destination warehouses.” Patrick Bradley, Vice President of Operations at Vintage Imports Inc
There are many reasons why intermodal transportation is superior to single-mode transportation:
Trains are three to four times more efficient than trucks. According to the Association of American Railroads, choosing rail freight vs truck freight lowers greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75%.
Less fuel could translate to cost savings, and since it's possible to switch between transport modes, your freight carrier can arrange the most cost-effective method for each leg of the trip. Intermodal transportation can reduce transportation costs by up to 15%.
Your route can be optimized for the fastest delivery possible, or even the most sustainable.
If there are any delays, a freight forwarder can help to find a different way to deliver your wine and keep you updated.
The best intermodal combination for your shipments depends on many factors. An experienced freight forwarder like Hillebrand Gori can determine the fastest, greenest and most cost-effective way to deliver your wine in top-quality condition.
For advice on intermodal shipping, speak to your local Hillebrand Gori representative.
Published 29th December 2023, updated 20th February 2024
Intermodal transportation involves transporting products using a combination of transport modes, without needing to unload/reload the container. A container can be transported by truck to a sea port, drive onto a vessel and then drive off again. This type of intermodal transport is referred to as Ro-Ro - roll on to a vessel - roll off of a vessel.
Intermodal shipping relies on standardized containers with specific weight and size limits. These limits vary depending on the transport mode, container size and country regulations. In the United States, the maximum weight for a 53-foot domestic intermodal container is 80,000 pounds.
The use of standardized containers and the limited handling of freight minimizes the risk of damage or loss during transportation.
A logistics provider, like Hillebrand Gori, is an expert in logistics and can provide valuable assistance in determining the best intermodal solution. They can also handle all the necessary arrangements and coordination between different transport modes.