Companies should consider using more intermodal transportation to cut down on air freight quantities and save money, according to a recent Financial Post article. Intermodal transportation is transporting freight by various means, such as shipping via ocean, using rail to deliver goods to distribution centers and using trucks only for the last phase of delivery. This, the article stated, can significantly decrease supply chain costs.
Another benefit of this type of transportation is that it is also less harsh on the environment than expensive and energy-intensive air transport, according to Financial Post. It takes about 80 times more energy to transport goods by air than it does by rail and ocean-going freighter and air takes about 5.5 times more energy than trucking. About 80 percent of goods are transported in North America by trucks, despite rail and ocean being more efficient - about 14.5 percent more efficient than the latest generation of trucks.
"[F]orecasts (say) that the price of oil will soon rise to $225/barrel, and that when it does, it will throw businesses that have not focused on ensuring their distribution chain is as efficient as possible into chaos, as some products may no longer be economically viable at a price that consumers are willing to pay," an economist told the Financial Post.
But companies are not only concerned with slashing costs, they are also increasingly interested in reducing their carbon footprint. One company reportedly cut its energy usage and emissions by 9 percent in the last three years by using intermodal means of transportation, according to the article. The company was also able to increase the amount of product shipped by 22.5 percent.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram spoke with a BNSF rail company executive who said that the increase in intermodal transportation has helped the company and other rail lines operating in the United States grow significantly in the last decade. He also said when it comes to transportation efficiency, trains can move 2,000 pounds 500 miles on one gallon of diesel, which is three-and-a-half times more fuel efficient than moving freight by truck.
Northfolk Southern Railway reported that intermodal business generated more than 20 percent of the rail company's operating revenue last year. Also, in the last two years, the company has seen its domestic intermodal volume increase 42 percent.
As companies look to save money and reduce their impact on the environment by going intermodal, they will want to make sure they have the right data collection tools in place, like a inventory barcode scanner, to track these products as they move from place to place and from one mode of transport to another.