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Many methods are used in the logistics and shipping industries to move products between two destinations. Transloading services stand out as a unique transportation process that can be confused with other terms such as cross-docking or transshipping.

Transloading refers to the process of moving pallets, equipment, and other shipments between locations using more than one mode of transportation. Your first thought about transloading may involve the movement of goods from international countries via ocean freight carriers. After the boat docks, the goods at the port will become transferred to waiting trucks that then head to warehouses and distribution centers.

However, transloading means much more than this for companies of all sizes. This service can also involve moving shipments via rail for the first part of the trip and then switching to trucking services for the last-mile delivery. It is not just reserved for moving goods from suppliers to warehouses.

Transloading can also be used to move equipment and materials between job sites, warehouse-to-warehouse points, and warehouse to end-customer locations. Cross-docking and transshipping refer to methods that use a single type of transportation strategy to move products. For example, you will use one truck to move freight partway across the country and then load the shipment to another vehicle to make the remainder of the trip.

What Is a Transload Facility?

To fully understand the transloading process, you need to understand how the products are handled during the entire trip. The following example will discuss construction materials that must be moved from a warehouse to a commercial development site.

Often, this work may be performed by just using trucks. However, the location of the material’s supplier or warehouse could be in an area that is difficult or out of the way to reach by only using vehicle transportation. A more direct approach that offers better fuel and transportation savings is to use the nearby railway to get the shipment part of the way to the destination. This shipment will switch to a transport truck for the final delivery at the job site.

The process starts by loading the equipment onto the train at the transloading facility or intermodal yard. The shipment may have arrived in a freight container, or it might be inside a vehicle trailer. The entire container or trailer can be moved up a ramp and loaded onto the flat car using a container crane. Yet this is not the only conveying method that may be used.

With transloading, the materials or goods may also be physically moved from the freight container or trailer using forklifts, pallet jacks, and other material handling equipment. The goods can then be placed into a rail car, box car, hopper, or flat car. This depends on how the shipment is packaged, the type of shipment, and how much of the shipment is going to the destination.

In many circumstances, a customer may be moving multiple pallets and crates from different warehouse locations to the railyard. Afterward, all the shipments will be consolidated into one freight car that will arrive at the specific location, end customer, or job site. After the train arrives at the railyard closest to the destination, the materials are moved from the train to a waiting vehicle. Then, the vehicle will transport the goods to the destination. 

Types of Materials Transported Via Transloading

There are no material restrictions when it comes to shipping goods using transloading methods. Industries in aerospace, military, communications, construction, chemical, food, retail, and many others can utilize transloading strategies. Some of the most common types of goods shipped may involve, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Construction materials: Lumber, metals, cinderblocks, bricks, sheetrock, loose gravel, and natural stones
  • Warehouse merchandise:Palletized freight, shipping containers, boxes, general merchandise, small appliances, and equipment
  • Oversized cargo: Military equipment, military vehicles, aerospace components, telecommunication equipment, transformers, heavy machinery
  • Specialized freight: Hazardous chemicals, hazardous materials, cryogenic materials, temperature-sensitive/climate-controlled shipments 

Benefits of Transload Operations

Using a transloading warehouse to help with the movement of goods and shipments provides a range of advantages to a company. It is a unique tactic that can be implemented at any time in your logistical strategies to help ensure products reach their destinations at desired schedules.

Main benefits may include:

  • Supply chain versatility:Your customers can be in diverse and remote locations. Transloading in logistics offers more options on how the shipment can reach the destination safely and securely by allowing you to pick the method most suitable based on available transportation routes. You are no longer limited to one mode of transportation.
  • Lower overall costs:Fuel and transportation costs can be controlled via this method. Using rail service for part of the route can significantly lower fuel costs as rail cars use four times less fuel than just using only vehicles. When switching to vehicle transportation, the trucks offer fast and efficient delivery.
  • Freight consolidation: Transloading warehouses allow large amounts of freight to be consolidated onto fewer rail cars, which provide more cost-effective solutions. If your materials or goods are located at multiple manufacturing sites but must all go to the same destination, each truck can drive to the transload facility located along the rail line. The goods can then be placed into the rail car as the train moves along the route, stopping at each facility to consolidate the goods into the same freight car while traveling closer to the destination.

WSI Transload Services

Using our transloading in your logistical operations allows you to strategize transportation routes and fully leverage your supply chain capabilities to assure products reach destinations on time and under budget. You can pick the method that allows your freight to be moved from point A to point B based on its size and weight, as you can consolidate shipments anytime during the transportation process.

Read here for an example involving a rail transloading solution. With decades of experience working with railroads, WSI has an in-depth understanding of the industry, including effectively managing lead times and unloading rail cars. In major cities coast to coast, WSI facilities are directly served by Class 1 railroads, where we specialize in transloading, or transferring shipments from rail to truck. Our capabilities include:

  • The country’s largest network of rail-served public warehousing
  • Manage rail volume between 25,000 and 30,000 carloads annually
  • Experience with all car types: boxcars, centerbeam, flat cars, hoppers
  • Long relationships with railroads, truckload carriers & dray operators
  • Warehouse Management System offers real-time product visibility

At WSI, we offer transload services to companies of any size. Contact WSI today to learn more about our exceptional 3PL network and transloading services.

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