Discover the Benefits of Both and How They Differ

When it comes to transporting goods, there are a number of different methods you can use to ship merchandise from point A to point B. The question is, which do you choose? Which is going to be the most cost-efficient while ensuring that your items arrive safely to their destination?
There are two essential modes of land transportation: OTR (over the road) and Intermodal (combination of rail and truck). Both are commonly used, but then the question remains, should you opt for an OTR shipment or coordinate intermodal transportation?

What Is OTR and Intermodal Transportation?

If you are unfamiliar with these terms, we can break them down for you. Intermodal refers to goods that are transported using more than one mode of transportation, normally trucking and a train; on the other hand, OTR or over-the-road is when cargo is moved a long distance (long haul) normally by truck.

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When To Choose OTR

OTR can be handy for full truckload (FTL) or less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments. Typically, these options allow the ability to move a wider range of products across long distances. If your shipment meets any of the following criteria, you might want to opt for an OTR shipment:

  • Any order ranging from a single pallet to a full trailer load
  • Time-sensitive, or expedited shipments
  • High-value or fragile items
  • Temperature-controlled items

Pros and Cons of OTR Transport


  • Flexible, Fast Delivery: since truck drivers aren’t stuck following a particular schedule, like trains, you can schedule a shipment to fit the timeframe you need. This method is especially useful for short-notice or expedited shipments.
  • Larger orders: OTR transportation typically works for high volume shipments.
  • Security: shippers feel more confident transporting high-value goods on a truck with a driver.


  • High Demand: With diminishing numbers of truck drivers and increasingly high volumes of OTR shipments being scheduled, it might prove challenging to find a quality trucking company to meet your needs.
  • Traffic Congestion: While trains are the only ones on the tracks, trucks must share the road with cars, other trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles. In the event of closures, traffic jams, or accidents, your shipment may run into delays.
  • Higher Potential for Damage: OTR shipments tend to be handled multiple times during its travel especially LTL cargo, which increases the risk of damage to your packages.
  • Carbon Emissions: With the ever-increasing importance of environmental sustainability, shippers are opting for more green solutions. The transportation industry is responsible for creating around ⅓ of all carbon emissions, and electric semi-trucks are still slightly out of budget for many companies.

Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal transportation is widely regarded as the better option, but that may not be true for everyone. Since rail transportation is essential in an intermodal move, let’s take a look at some of the best and worst things about rail shipping:


  • Infrastructure: The rail network in the United States is immense, and it is expanding more and more each year. More than $600 billion has gone into our freight railroads since the 1980s, which correlates to the massive expansions being made to rail transport all over the country. Developments are slated to continue well into 2020.
  • Reduced Risk of Damage: Rail transport requires containers to be stacked carefully and secured onto flatcars where they remain untouched until they are unloaded. This dramatically reduces the chance of them shifting in transit.
  • Reliability: Trains run on a set schedule, and they are governed by major transit laws, rather than individual trucking companies. They are also less impacted by poor weather, which means your items arrive at the scheduled time.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Trains have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than cars or trucks do. When you opt for an intermodal shipping method, you could cut your carbon emissions up to 75%.
  • Cost: Generally speaking, the cost of shipping a container or a pallet of goods is lower when traveling by rail.


  • Longer Transit Time: As you can imagine, transporting something via train can take longer than a truck. Since rail systems work on dedicated tracks and may make multiple stops before reaching your destination. If you are on a tight deadline, rail transport may not be your best bet.
  • Additional Services Needed: If you opt for intermodal transportation, you will also need drayage service. This means coordinating another service, scheduling an appointment, and staying on top of another step before your goods can arrive at their destination.
  • Not Available Everywhere: While infrastructure is continually evolving, there are still some places that do not have a ramp set-up for rail transportation. Currently, Class I freight railroads are only available in 44 out of 50 states.

Choosing the Right Option

Still not sure the route to take? Promptus LLC offers expert freight forwarding services from our team, who has over 15 years of experience with global logistics. We can help you figure whether on-the-road or intermodal shipping is better for you, and then we can coordinate an LTL, FTL, or even small package shipments anywhere in the country. Call us today at 305-687-1405 for a free quote!