Intermodal Freight

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Intermodal Freight

Understand the in-and-outs of Intermodal Freight

Intermodal Freight is the transportation of goods and commodities in an intermodal container or vehicle, using two or more modes of transport. By packing freight into intermodal containers, shipments can be transported smoothly from origin to destination through different shipping carriers such as trucks, trains and cargo ships.

Intermodal Freight lets you ship just about anything, as long as; your cargo fits inside the standard intermodal container sizes; does not exceed maximum load weight allowance; and is packaged correctly, as the container itself endures a bit of movement during transit.

When using Intermodal Freight transportation, every part of the shipment is managed by a different shipping company. As the shipper, this means that you will be handling a few separate contracts for each shipping company involved in the transport process, outlining their specific part in your cargo’s shipment from pick-up through to delivery.

There are two categories of Intermodal Freight: International Intermodal and Domestic Intermodal.

Both of these categories require freight to be loaded into an Intermodal Container. An Intermodal Container is a large metal box used for transporting goods, and is specifically designed for use on several modes of freight carriers. Intermodal containers come in two standard sizes: the 20-foot container, which has the capacity of 9 to 11 pallets; and the 40-foot container, which has the capacity of 20 to 24 pallets--depending on whether the pallets are standard sized or EUR-pallets. What sets them apart from other types of containers is that they are designed to be absolutely airtight.

Container weight limitations, or container payload, is usually found on the container door. This means the cargo’s weight should not exceed this number. It is important to note that the maximum load weight allowance for intermodal freight varies from region to region and country to country. For Australia-wide shipments, the average maximum load weight of containers (including cargo weight) for road transport ranges from 24 tonnes up to 30 tonnes, depending on the region.

Other than the apparent difference in regional scope, another significant difference between International and Domestic Intermodal Freight lies in the container sizes they each use. In International Intermodal Freight, container sizes follow the international standard of either 20 feet or 40 feet, as mentioned earlier. As for Domestic Intermodal Freight, shipments are transported using 53-foot containers. In an instance when an intermodal freight involves an ocean carrier, the shipment arrives at a port in a 20-foot or 40-foot standard international container and is transferred into a 53-foot domestic container.

The benefits of using Intermodal Freight include the following:

First, it can be very cost effective. Because the shipper can choose which carrier to use for each phase or stage of the transport process, they can avail of lower rates and lessen the costs of handling whenever possible.

Second is fuel efficiency. Intermodal Freight lets the shipper take advantage of rail transport even if, geographically, it is not directly accessible to either the shipper or the consignee’s facilities. Compared to other modes of transport, rail uses the least amount of fuel, which makes it a cheaper and more sustainable option. This, again, allows for lower shipping costs.

Using Intermodal Freight can also be very environmentally friendly. By using multiple modes of transportation, the shipper is able to pick and choose the most eco-friendly carrier options throughout the shipment.

Intermodal Freight can also be advantageous when it comes to: reliability and consistency, since you can develop partnerships with you preferred shipping companies; access to more available capacity, because you have better visibility on both available space and equipment; and better security and safety, as your goods are kept in airtight intermodal containers and are handled a lot less during transfers.

One thing to definitely consider before you choose the Intermodal Freight option is that it requires the shipper to be hands-on when managing each shipping company’s contract and overseeing each step of the shipment process. On the other hand, the Multimodal Freight option, which, similarly, also uses multiple modes of transport, is easier to manage because the entire shipment process is under only one contract or bill of lading. But this also means you lose access to lower rates along the way.

If you’re interested to know more about Intermodal Freight services or would like to compare it with other freight forwarding methods, log on to the Fast Courier website now!

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Most common courier quote questions

It's quite simple. Just enter the package weight and destination and we will search for multiple courier services to choose from. 

We'll provide various Couriers and prices, simply select and proceed to book the service. We'll send you confirmation emails, booking reference numbers and moments later your package is on the way to being picked up and delivered. 

For a full explanation of the process check out here. 

Fast Courier is committed to making the process as fast, easy and affordable as possible. Now more than ever deliveries and couriers are vital so we're happy when you are happy.

By booking large number of deliveries we have access ti bulk prices and we pass these saving on to you, because no one should have to pay more...

After making a booking, we will provide a booking ID, shipping labels for you to place on your package. All you need to do is print these out the place them on the package.

The Courier will scan your package at your doorstep and then issue you a Tracking Number. We'll be keeping in touch as your package is making its journey to delivery. 

Volumetric weight, sometimes called dimensional weight, refers to the amount of space your package occupies on a truck or aircraft while it is being shipped. In other words, volumetric weight is the size—not the weight—of your package. Oftentimes a service will measure both the volumetric weight and the actual weight of a parcel; the bigger of the two numbers is then used to determine the cost of shipping.

To calculate volumetric weight see our guide on this link - Calculating volumetric weight

We also have additional articles on common issues people face when shipping products. The list of articles and links are outlined below;


The simple answer to this is yes, we have an Australian postage calculator available for use at any time. Our postage calculator pulls prices from multiple couriers allowing you to compare postage prices with ease.

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