Moore on Pricing: Who’s your DIM?

What’s a dim? It’s your domestic intermodal manager. If you don’t have one you might need one soon. Or better yet, you might want to consider a cross-functional team knowledgeable on domestic intermodal management.

By ·

What’s a dim? It’s your domestic intermodal manager. If you don’t have one you might need one soon. Or better yet, you might want to consider a cross-functional team knowledgeable on domestic intermodal management.   

If you ship truckloads around the country—mid or long distances, say over 500 miles—then there’s a railroad rep looking to capture your freight. Many logistics management staff grew up with truckload and less-than-truckload training and experience.

However, if intermodal was used, it was delegated to the single brand truckload providers who quietly used rail for long hauls without telling the shipper or the intermodal marketing companies (IMC) who handled this little understood mode. 

With all due respect to my truckload carrier and IMC colleagues, shippers need to gear up their knowledge for increased rail use due to changes in the transportation market. If you’re not already concerned about driver shortages, fuel costs, and highway tolls, then let’s look at five other factors. 

1) On-shoring: The movement of manufacturing back to the U.S. continues, and we’re moving toward energy independence within 10 years, according to the Department of Energy. With the aid of robotics and smarter processes, the U.S. is gaining in production volume. This is not just true of automobile manufacturing, but also appliances and electronics. This means more domestic shipping over longer distances, and how these routes—highway and rail—affect your shipment corridors is going to be vital intelligence for your team.

2) New routes: From the widening of the Panama Canal to new rail access in Los Angeles, to higher clearances in the Northeast, the railroads are expanding capacity wherever possible. This means new competition for your freight. 

3) New terminals: A new, huge intermodal yard in Indianapolis means faster, smoother service. New rail-highway transloading facilities in the East and Southwest opened to handle fracking chemicals and minerals means more options for domestic bulk shippers. Ask your service representative about some of these new infrastructure improvements and what they might mean for improved service.

4) Carbon footprint: Intermodal means more on rail and water, and this means your company gets to brag about reducing your carbon footprint in logistics—a message that is appearing in more and more annual reports. How can your domestic intermodal management plan affect the company’s public profile and bottom line?

5) New technology: At trade shows and through webcasts produced by Logistics Management, shippers are hearing about new transportation management systems (TMS) that can select multi-modal solutions for domestic and international freight plans. These are only going to get more sophisticated, so you need to pick a system provider and work with them to find a multi-modal planning solution for your supply chain. While searching, look at cloud-based TMS solutions that will be faster to adapt to changes and reduce your dependency on corporate IT resources. 

So how do we develop domestic intermodal management expertise? First assess your team’s current knowledge of current and future intermodal market trends. Are you paying for a third party to contract for intermodal when you could deal directly with providers? Is this fee justified by innovation, technologies, or consolidation leverage? If so, fine. But shippers still need to learn more about how the intermodal works. Do you understand which intermodal terminals are key to moving your freight and are they handling volumes well? What are the long-term plans for these facilities? 

If your team is in need of more knowledge, get it. There are books, seminars, and free advice at conferences and trade shows that can help get your team up to speed on domestic intermodal. The return on your investment is both leverage and innovative ideas to get improved cost and service.

About the Author

Peter Moore
Peter Moore is Adjunct Professor of Supply Chain at Georgia College EMBA Program, Program Faculty at the Center for Executive Education at the University of Tennessee, and Adjunct Professor at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. Peter writes from his home in Hilton Head Island, S.C., and can be reached at [email protected]

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

Intermodal · October 2013 · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Case Study: LEAN Yields Big Results
Every day, companies across a wide range of industries use LEAN in their supply chains, warehouses and distribution centers, finance departments, and customer service centers, among other areas. LEAN practices improve safety, quality, and productivity by extracting cost and waste from all facets of an operation – from the procurement of raw materials to the shipment of finished goods.
Download Today!
From the October 2016 Issue
Over the past decade we’ve seen a major trend in regards to safety regulations for freight transport within the United States as well as for import and export shippers—that trend is the “international­ization” of rules and regulations.
European Logistics Update: Post-Brexit U.K. moving ahead, but in which direction?
Badcock Home Furniture &more: Out with paper, in with Cloud TMS
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
How API Technology Connects the Transportation Economy
Dynamic decision making is made possible through accurate, actionable data. When combined with progress in data science and the Internet of Things, technology companies that add value to direct-to-carrier APIs and combine them with high-power data analytics will create new concepts for the information economy.
Register Today!
Motor Carrier Regulations Update: Caught in a Trap
The fed is hitting truckers with a barrage of costly regulations in an era of scant profits....
25th Annual Masters of Logistics
Indecision revolving around three complex supply chain elements—transportation, technology and...

2016 Quest for Quality: Winners Take the Spotlight
Which carriers, third-party logistics providers and U.S. ports have crossed the service-excellence...
Regional ports concentrate on growth and connectivity
With the Panama Canal expansion complete, ocean cargo gateways in the Caribbean are investing to...