The Future of Freight: How Intermodal Transport Is Revolutionizing Canadian Supply Chains

Ever wonder how that new TV or the fresh produce you bought made it to your local store? Chances are, intermodal transport played a vital role in that product’s journey to you.

Canadian Intermodal transport is revolutionizing the way goods are moved in the country. Container ships, railcars, and trucks are all working together efficiently to transport products faster and at a lower cost than ever before.

Gone are the days of driving solo across the country. The future of freight is all about optimizing logistics through multimodal transportation and cutting-edge technology.

This industry is continuously transforming Canadian supply chains, creating new opportunities for truck drivers and businesses alike! Keep reading to learn more about this exciting industry:

An Overview of Intermodal Transport in Canada

Cargo containers on a railway.

Canadian intermodal transport allows goods to be transported long distances by rail and overseas by ship or air, then complete the trip’s final leg by truck. This system optimizes efficiency and reduces costs for shippers.

An Efficient System

Intermodal transport is the most cost-effective and eco-friendly way to ship goods domestically. Containers are seamlessly transferred between modes, optimizing each leg of the journey.

A single cargo container may start its trip on a massive container ship, move to rail at a coastal port, and then complete the final miles to its destination by truck. The container is lifted from one mode to the next at each transfer point, streamlining the supply chain.

In Canada, most domestic freight is transported by trucks, making up 70% of the total, with rail accounting for the remaining 30%.

Intermodal also reduces costs and environmental impact. Rail is very efficient for long-haul, while trucks provide accessibility over the final short distance.

Companies can ship more goods at a lower cost and with fewer emissions by maximizing the strengths of each transport mode. The intermodal system gives supply chains the global reach of ships, the speed of trains, and the locality of trucks.

A Window Of Opportunity For Truckers

Trucking plays a crucial role in intermodal shipping. In intermodal transportation, trucks are used for the initial pickup and final delivery of cargo and for transporting containers to and from rail yards.

Trucks have the advantage of being able to reach small towns and remote areas that trains and planes cannot access.

Qualified and capable truck drivers are essential for the success of intermodal shipping. These drivers are responsible for transporting cargo locally or regionally as part of a larger supply chain.

Due to the size of the containers used in intermodal shipping, intermodal truck drivers must possess a professional driver’s license before they can start working. Once they obtain this license, they will have access to modern trucks and equipment and a steady and dependable source of employment.

The Challenges Facing Intermodal Transport in Canada

Blue intermodal containers stacked together.

Canadian intermodal transport is essential in the nation’s logistics industry to move goods across different modes of transportation. However, it faces challenges that need to be addressed for smooth operation, such as:

Reliability issues

The handoffs between rail, trucking and shipping companies in the intermodal supply chain can compromise reliability. Missed connections, delays, and service disruptions have significant impacts, causing supply chain inefficiencies and higher costs. Closer coordination and communication between intermodal partners will be vital to improving reliability.


Intermodal transportation can be slower than other shipping methods. This is because the goods have to embark on a relay race, being transferred between different modes, like trucks and trains. This can significantly add to some severe delays if the baton gets dropped along the way.


Intermodal transportation isn’t a budget-friendly option. The higher infrastructure costs make it a bit pricey compared to other shipping methods.


Intermodal transportation is complex and intricate. Managing the logistics of coordinating multiple modes of transport, each with its schedules and regulations, can be a mind-boggling task.


Some items might be too delicate or hazardous for the intermodal journey, while others might require special handling or disassembly before embarking.

Capacity constraints

During peak periods, Canada’s intermodal facilities and rail networks struggle with capacity issues, leading to service delays and disruptions. Additional investments in rail sidings, terminals, and equipment are needed to handle surges in volume.

To fully enjoy the advantages of intermodal transportation, the Canadian intermodal transport and shipping industry must collaborate, innovate, and find more considerable investments to tackle everyday obstacles.

The Future of Intermodal Transport In Canada

Canadian Pacific Railway In Kleinburg.

Canada is experiencing a surge in demand for fast and efficient freight movement, and intermodal shipping is set to play a vital role in improving supply chain logistics.

Growth of Intermodal Hubs

Major Canadian cities are investing in intermodal hubs to facilitate the transfer of containers between transport modes. For example, CentrePort Canada’s development aims to enhance intermodal connectivity in Winnipeg. These hubs create local jobs and position cities as key players in global supply chains.

Policy Changes

In 2022, the Government of Canada announced plans to modernize Canada’s ports and supply chain by introducing legislative amendments to improve governance, financial management, competitiveness, environmental sustainability, safety, and security. These changes aim to attract investment and strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities, promoting a more efficient and resilient national transportation system.

Rail and Port Expansion

Canada’s major ports and railways are expanding intermodal services to meet demand. CN and Norfolk Southern have launched a new intermodal service, allowing Canada and the Upper Midwest to access the markets in the U.S. Southeast.

Transport Canada invests $12.5 million to expand the Cargo Terminal Infrastructure at the Port of Windsor to shift goods transportation from trucks to trains and ships, aiming to reduce pollution and congestion. The expansion will create jobs and attract new investment.

Technological Innovation

Intermodal transportation providers like CN Rail have partnered with tech giants like Google Cloud to modernize services and roll out features like PTC (Positive Train Control) for a safer, more efficient intermodal system for all stakeholders.

While intermodal transport faces challenges like high upfront costs, its ability to provide fast, sustainable freight movement positions it as the future of Canadian supply chains. With more strategic investments and policy changes, intermodal shipping can realize its full potential as the greener, smarter way to move goods in Canada.

Buckle Up For Intermodal Innovations

Semi-truck on the highway at sunrise.

The freight industry is rapidly evolving towards intermodal transport, which promises to bring new efficiencies and opportunities to truck drivers and fleets. The technology behind intermodal systems is becoming increasingly advanced and interconnected, offering faster and smarter ways to move goods across Canada.

While change can be challenging, embracing intermodal transport is critical for success in this new era of supply chain optimization. By working together to innovate, we can unlock endless opportunities for cost savings and enhanced efficiency. So,  let’s hop on board and take advantage of the bright future that intermodal transport promises to deliver.

Are you interested in becoming a licensed truck driver in the Canadian intermodal transport industry? Gennaro Transport Training can help you achieve your goal! With over 80 years of combined experience, we offer comprehensive driving classes that cater to drivers from all backgrounds. Take the first step towards a fulfilling career by contacting us today!