Intermodal supply chain off the tracks?

Intermodal going off the rail

Try transloading instead.

Earlier this year, the Union Pacific Railroad elected to impose an embargo on ocean containers for a week from Southern California to Chicago to regain fluidity and clear out their overcrowded ramp. Chicago’s Intermodal rail congestion has been a much written-about topic throughout the year. That embargo only further backed up ocean containers being collected on the pier, not to mention exacerbating the port congestion that has close to 70 vessels at anchor in San Pedro Bay. 

The rail congestion isn’t Chicago’s problem alone.

Whether equipment shortages at origin or the delays to unload, securing space on an intermodal flatcar to move off the pier or being mounted and made available inland, there is one way to step into that slow-motion wreck and try to save valuable days.


Transloading is the process by which an ocean container is cleared at the first port of arrival, drayed to a warehouse, emptied and the cargo palletized and transferred to a truck to be moved from the port directly to the final delivery point.

Transloads can be planned – such as for cargo that is only booked as far as the first port of arrival – or unplanned, with a change to the bill of lading while the goods are already in transit. A change to the bill of lading will entail both an amendment to the bill and probably an additional charge from the ocean carrier. 

From a Customs clearance perspective, the earlier Argents know a container will be stopped to be transloaded, the better. We need to make sure that the carrier does not issue an in-bond for the container to clear at an inland point. The container may have also been stowed overseas in a group of containers slated for transfer to the rail for convenience and speed, and the terminal upon arrival will need to ensure the container is placed where local pickups are made.

Argents operates our own warehouse in Tacoma and utilizing our house truckers can quickly pick up a box soon after availability, transload it in our facility and schedule an outbound truck to keep the goods moving.

The cost to transload a container is usually dependent upon the number of cartons and pallets that are required, as well as additional segregation, labeling or handling requirements. Those costs have fluctuated but been within a reliable range. 

The soaring variable, of course, is the cost of trucking which has been ticking upward as the demand continues to outstrip capacity.