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Posted by Stephanie on July 3, 2023

When shipping goods, there are numerous factors that must be accounted for when you’re making sure that the logistics are sound and won’t involve exorbitant costs. During the transportation of your goods, products may need to be moved between different types of vehicles and shipping methods.

In this scenario, it’s possible to boost freight flexibility and efficiency with transloading, which is designed to allow for goods to be shipped by truck for the initial or final mile. For most of the trip, trains are used to accommodate quick transportation of goods. Businesses oftentimes use a combination of transloading and intermodal shipping to transport goods to their customers and retail stores. In this guide, you’ll discover how transloading can bolster your business.

Wire Decking Bundled on Truck

What is Transloading?

Transloading is a commonly used shipping term that involves transferring goods between two or more types of transportation while the goods are being sent to their destination. Many long-haul shipments use several modes of transit and multiple shipping companies. As mentioned previously, one option is to use trucks at the beginning and end of the delivery process while using trains for everything else. Over the past decade, transloading has increased rapidly in popularity because of how quickly eCommerce has been adopted.

Intermodal Shipping: Accessing Rail Transportation Without Tracks

Intermodal shipping involves moving goods with at least two methods of transportation. Most rail shippers use this term to describe shipments that are placed in containers and moved between trains and trucks. There are numerous steps associated with this process, the first of which involves loading products into a special intermodal container. This container is then transported to a truck chassis. The truck will move the container to a large intermodal ramp, which should be positioned just nearby.

After you move the container to the intermodal ramp, you’ll need to remove it from the truck chassis before placing it on a well car or flatcar. From here, the shipment will travel by train for most of the journey before being placed on a truck for the final delivery. When using this type of shipping, products always remain in the same type of container for the whole trip. The various types of goods that can be transported in an intermodal container include:

  • Plastics
  • Agricultural products
  • Different types of consumer goods
  • Food and beverages
  • Building, manufacturing, and construction materials

There are many advantages that come with the intermodal shipping method, the primary of which include:

  • Higher fuel efficiency
  • More capacity
  • Relatively affordable pricing
  • Consistent and reliable service
  • Sustainability in comparison to long-haul trucking

This shipping technique allows you to select an alternative to having your goods shipped solely by truck. Even if your facility doesn’t contain tracks around the loading and unloading door, intermodal shipping allows you to benefit from rail transportation.

Transloading: Seamless Transfer of Freight

Transloading is a technique that involves unloading items from trucks before placing them in rail cars or unloading goods from rail cars before placing them in trucks. Keep in mind that a single rail car is capable of carrying around the same amount of goods as three to four trucks. When unloading and loading items with this transportation method, you can use several trucks for every rail car.

To understand how transloading works, let’s say that a forklift is moving palletized goods. If these goods are transferred to a spacious rail car from a smaller truck, this is considered transloading. The same is true when a crane lifts products off a rail car before putting them into a truck. Before you use transloading, keep in mind that there are three different types of this technique, which include a destination transload, door-to-door transload, and origin transload.

A destination transload involves:

  • Your items will be loaded onto at least one rail car at the beginning of the shipment process, which can take place in a warehouse or refinery
  • The train will move your products for most of the trip before arriving at a transload facility
  • This facility is where your products are moved from the rail car to multiple trucks
  • Any trucks you use will move your items to their last destination

A door-to-door transload involves:

  • This transload process involves using the destination transload technique at the origin and destination
  • A door-to-door transload goes from truck to rail, from rail to truck, and from truck to the last stop

An origin transload involves:

  • Your items will be loaded onto one or more trucks at the beginning of the shipment
  • These trucks will move your items to a separate transload facility
  • Your products are unloaded from the trucks before being moved to rail cars
  • A rail will move the product to its intended destination, which means that the shipments are delivered via train

Regardless of the type of transload you use, the product you’re shipping determines how it ends up being transferred between trains and trucks. It also dictates what type of rail car will be transporting the goods. The rail cars used in these shipments can be anything from flat cars and box cars to tank cars.

Even though transloading and intermodal shipping have many similarities, the main difference is that products that are shipped by transloading move between different conveyances instead of remaining in the exact same container for the entire trip. There are many types of products that you can ship with transloading, which include:

  • Food
  • Smaller goods
  • Beverages
  • Agricultural products
  • Consumer goods
  • Construction materials
  • Vehicles
  • Large items

Transloading is more versatile than intermodal shipping and can be used to transport many more types of goods.

The Benefits of Transloading

If you decide to use transloading for your products, there are many benefits that you’ll gain access to, the primary of which include:

  • Lower carbon footprint in comparison to truck shipping
  • Substantial cost reduction
  • Better market reach
  • Ability to ship higher volume of products at a lower cost
  • Flexibility in transportation options

Transloading is a highly effective option if you’re:

  • Wanting to combine products or materials from a warehouse or transload yard for final distribution
  • Developing destination or origin rail capacity for another location in the vicinity
  • Starting a project where items need to be quickly delivered to a location that doesn’t allow for rail shipments
  • New to the rail shipping process and want to be able to take advantage of it without spending money on a rail-served warehouse

Accessing Rail Transportation: Intermodal Ramps and Transload Facilities

Intermodal facilities can be found across the U.S. and are often referred to as intermodal ramps. When using these facilities, companies can ship their containers with trucks, ocean carriers, or trains. There are also many transload facilities in North America, which ensures that rail shipping can take place in nearly every destination.

MHX is one example of a popular transload provider. They are a supply chain management and logistics company that specializes in providing shippers with access to solutions for first- and last-mile shipping. They are based out of California and provide their clients with drayage, warehousing, trucking, transloading, and transportation services.

Outsource and Simplify: Transloading with Logistics Companies

Because of how complex the process of shipping items can be, businesses routinely prefer to have their shipping efforts outsourced to third-party logistics companies. When using these services, the logistics company of your choice will create a route and make sure that delivery is tracked from the origin of the shipment to the customer. Software is used to ensure the best and most efficient selection of transportation options is used. By outsourcing your shipping, you can save a large sum of money and reduce the number of errors that occur when handling this process on your own.

Truckload of Pallet Rack Beams

The Future of Transloading

With each passing year, transloading is becoming a larger part of eCommerce and global trade. To account for the growing importance of this technique, new transloading technologies are providing advancements and innovations to the industry. These advancements come at many different stages of the shipment process. For instance, it’s possible to take advantage of autonomous trucking to transport goods to and from their destination.

In the years to come, innovative improvements to transloading are likely to occur through artificial intelligence. While autonomous trucks are becoming increasingly popular, the option for autonomous rail may also be available over the next decade.


Transloading is a highly beneficial process that allows you to move items between trucks and rail cars without needing to store them in shipping containers. The many advantages that can help your business save money and time include a lower carbon footprint, a wider reach in the market, and flexibility in your transportation options. This is a versatile technique for shipping goods. If you’re searching for ways to reduce costs or improve customer satisfaction when it comes to freight shipping, it’s recommended that you consider transloading for more cost-effective and efficient freight shipping.

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