What is Intermodal Drayage?

In the world of shipping and logistics, intermodal drayage is an all-encompassing term. Intermodal means using more than one mode of transportation when moving a container or cargo. Traditionally, intermodal services include a combination of ocean/shipping, truck, and rail.

Drayage is defined as goods transported a short distance, usually as a small part of a longer and more complex supply chain system.

With the use of today’s powerful, real-time warehouse management systems (WMS), intermodal companies can reduce the handling of cargo, improve security, allow for faster transportation and more control, and finally reduce damage and loss.

Cross Docking: A Cost-Saving Solution for Your CompanyWhat is Cross Docking?

Cross-docking allows for one central inbound dock, but several outbound docks at the same time, creating a network of distribution and an integral part of intermodal services. This allows companies to reach the maximum amount of destinations using the minimum number of routes.

Cross-docking is a type of freight movement system that promotes a flowing, seamless supply chain. Like intermodal drayage, materials can be received from truck, rail, or ocean containers.

In a non-intermodal supply chain system, cargo will leave the manufacturer, reach an inventory buffer (traditional warehousing) and then be sent to the customer based on sales.

In a cross-docking system designed for intermodal services, cargo is sent from the manufacturer via ship to a local port. The cargo may then be trucked to a local distribution center or cross docking terminal for cross-docking.

Once cargo is received at the cross-dock terminal, it is unloaded, sorted by destination, reloaded (usually within 24 hours), and sent directly to the final location.

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When to Use Cross Docking

Companies who are deciding between intermodal drayage and cross-docking have several points to consider. Companies who find themselves in the following situations should consider cross-docking solutions:

Companies who are shipping materials…

  • …that do not need handling at a warehouse
  • …that do not need to be stored or repackaged
  • …to similar end points near each other
  • …that can be screened quickly through automated systems and sent automatically, without needing a surplus inventory
  • …that are time-sensitive or perishable
  • …on a recurring delivery
  • …where the destination point is greater than 300 miles from the port of entry (ex. Port of Mobile)

Cost-Effectiveness of Cross Docking

Most companies who switch to cross-docking as part of a modern intermodal services solution do so because of the savings in cost compared to intermodal drayage or point-to-point transportation systems. Cost can be saved by using cross-docking in the following ways:

  • By cutting out warehousing and handling, there is no cost associated with storing or managing an inventory
  • Less freight handling means less damage to products
  • Cross-docking systems are well calculated and managed through an automated warehouse management system, cutting out human error and saving money
  • Long-hauls are avoided, cutting transportation, gas and routine service costs

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Things to Consider When Cross Docking

Cross Docking can save cost and time, but it is important to ensure that you are using a carrier who can handle your specific supply chain demands. Consider the following points when choosing a full service supply chain management company to manage your intermodal services.

  • Transport carriers must have enough fleet for the cross dock to run smoothly at all times
  • A computerized and automatically updated warehouse management system must be used to transmit real-time information to its users
  • Cross Docking solutions should offer a competitive price compared to intermodal drayage of specific products or materials

Free E-book: How to Lower Your Intermodal & Drayage Costs

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About BR Williams

With humble beginnings back in 1958, BR Williams has grown into an award-winning supply chain management company servicing all 48 contiguous states and Canada. With facilities in Anniston (2), Oxford, Piedmont, Eastaboga, Mobile and Tallahassee, FL, BR Williams supports over 2550 customers across the Distribution, Logistics and Transportation divisions. Industries served: automotive, defense, home improvement, education, food raw materials, textiles, chemical, industrial packaging, metals (finished goods), highway safety and more.

To discuss your Distribution, Logistics or Transportation Services options, please contact Matt Nelson at matt.nelson@brwilliams.com or (800)-523-7963.