Intermodal Services are the Mode of the Future

What are Intermodal Drayage Services?

Intermodal Drayage Services is the transportation of cargo by a combination of two or more modes of transportation – truck, railroad, and ocean. Taylor Distributing has become a leader in the Cincinnati drayage industry and ships cargo over short and long distances. Request a free quote for our drayage rates today! 

How Taylor Distributing Adapts and Innovates in the Cincinnati Drayage Industry

Intermodal Shippers have encountered origin and destination issues with drayage companies since the onset of the Intermodal Services industry.  The shipper may be able to see part of the origin drayage as the container reaches its destination ramp, but may lose visibility as the remainder of the container is delivered to the consignee.  The railroad supplies information on the location of the container while in their possession, but timely information becomes difficult, if not impossible, to obtain once the container is turned over to drayage companies. During this “dark period” the location of the truck and time of arrival at the consignee is unknown. These questions could equally be raised at the point of origin, particularly if the length of dray is a far distance from the railroad terminal.

Origin and destination drayage services is very involved. Paperwork must be completed, the equipment must be inspected, and dispatch must be handled in an efficient and timely manner.  “We want to be able to more effectively match both pickups and deliveries to better utilize our company equipment,” says Keith Swensen, Fleet Manager at Taylor Distributing.  Swensen noted that cargo interests were beginning to expect further transparency in their supply chains and began looking to their service providers for visibility. That is when our management moved aggressively to integrate intermodal drayage services into their logistics offering.  “In order to take advantage of the latest technology, Taylor Distributing tractors are equipped with PeopleNet, a system that provides onboard computers that we fully integrated into our dispatch process,” said Swensen.

The use of PeopleNet gives Taylor the ability to perform critical event recordings, such as hard breaking and other driving-related practices. It also provides electronic logging, which might become particularly critical if made mandatory by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “PeopleNet utilizes GPS to provide detailed information on the truck’s location and allows us to monitor the move so we can determine the driver’s ETA,” noted Swensen. All of this makes the door-to-door move fully visible while under Taylor Distributing control.  

In addition to in-cab technology, other safety and performance technology is being incorporated in all tractors. For example, Taylor Distributing continuously invests in new day cabs which are lighter and more maneuverable than sleeper units. The goal is to have a fleet less than three years old and showcases the latest state of the art equipment. Taylor Distributing is SmartWay certified.

“The technology we are adding to our drayage services certainly gives us supply chain visibility that our customers seek and the age of our fleet ensures we are leveraging technology to maximize fuel efficiency, improve safety, and improve customer service,” said Swensen. As part of the overall improvement to the intermodal services operation, new tractors are being equipped with automatic transmissions, a feature that not only improves safety and performance but also assists with driver recruiting and retention.

On that note, Swensen is keenly aware of the driver retention and shortage issues.  However, he feels that the nature of the drayage services industry, which allows drivers to be home almost every night, is an important lifestyle benefit for retaining drivers. Taylor Distributing is taking strides to minimize driver dwell time so the driver can keep moving and stay productive, a factor in their earnings as well as equipment utilization.

Anti-Rollover or automatic stability control is now a standard feature. Auto-inflation systems are installed on international chassis, and tri-axels are also available. As part of their strategic plan, Taylor Distributing has rolled out a new TMS operating system, Trinium Technologies, which will significantly improve planning, equipment utilization, and driver satisfaction.

“This will allow much more efficient use of our drayage service assets, and by incorporating Google mapping, we can evaluate highway traffic patterns and forecast delivery based on this information,” said Swensen.  Future enhancements will be made to the customer portals to make them more robust and provide significant information to our customers.

The drayage portion of the intermodal services industry has come a long way since its early origins. The latest technology and processes that companies like Taylor Distributing are implementing will provide visibility and seamless movement that supply chain management requires.

In the early years, intermodal drayage services was considered a risky move for shippers and IMC’s.  Today, much of that risk is gone and rail intermodal is an important part of most supply chains’ transportation mix.  Intermodal services has proven its value, experienced growth, and earned the respect of the Class I railroads as well as world class shippers.  It stands on the threshold of a new ear of growth as challenges mount for long-haul truckload.  While a lot of long-haul conversions have taken place, regional opportunities in the east are proving intermodal services is not just a mode for transcontinental freight moves.

New opportunities exist in refrigerated and flatbed transportation.  Whether rail intermodal is an origin or destination leg of an international move, or strictly a domestic move, it is hard to image the U.S. transportation network without it.  As regional drays and short haul rail options increase the use of intermodal services in lanes below 500 miles, the mode is clearly on the threshold of a new era. Based on proven results, intermodal is the mode of the future and Taylor Distributing is proud to be a part of the Cincinnati drayage industry.

Leveraging Technology

Maximizing fuel efficiency, enhancing safety, and improving customer service