Inter-modal is a term applied to the transportation of freight in a container, using multiple modes of transportation, ocean vessel, railroad and by truck without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The advantage of utilizing this method is that it reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damages and loss, and allows freight to be transported faster.

Truck trailers transported by rail move on flat cars. Typical terms are “Piggyback” or TOFC representing Trailers On Flat Cars.

Containers that move on ocean vessels have been standardized for stacking and ease of handling. The capacity of these container ships is measured in TEU’s, which is an abbrieviation for Twenty foot Equivalent Units. Today, there are 20’, 40’, 45’, 48’, and 53’ containers, with 40’ the most popular.

Without chassis or wheels, they can be stacked for more efficent transportation. Since 1984, a mechanism for intermodal shipping known as double-stack rail transport has become increasingly common. The double-stack rail car’s unique design also significantly reduced damage in transit, and provided greater cargo security by cradling the lower containers so their doors cannot be opened. And a succession of large, new domestic container sizes was introduced to further enhance shipping productivity for customers.

TLC provides flexibility. We have many customers who will alternate between intermodal rail and over-the-road truck for their shipments, depending on destination, transit time requirements, and equipment availability.

When shipments become critical, we pick up ocean containers from the port, removed a portion of the shipment and moved it by air for next day delivery, and the balance by truck for just in time delivery.