Solve Chemical Logistics Challenges with Intermodal Transportation

In the world of transportation and logistics, the chemical industry is a bit unique. The biggest differences come from the need for highly specialized containers to safely transport chemical freight, and the extensive regulations chemicals must comply with for transportation. Fortunately, these challenges can be solved with a combination of tools and techniques that not only address the problem but introduce significant potential to save time and money across your supply chain. The strategy as a whole revolves around intermodal transportation and the use of BulkTainer™ ISO tanks.

This blog looks at the key challenges of chemical logistics, leveraging intermodal transportation, and how BulkTainer™ ISO tanks fit in to streamline the whole process.

Why Chemical Logistics is Different

As mentioned previously, the biggest differences between traditional logistics and chemical logistics are the shipping containers and all of the regulations involved. Transporting, storing, and distributing flammable, corrosive, reactive materials require extreme care. If something goes wrong or the process is mishandled, the consequences are often much more severe than a late shipment, with dire economic, environmental, and human consequences. The 2020 warehouse explosion in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, involved a large quantity of chemicals in storage, causing at least 215 deaths, 7,500 injuries, $15B in property damage, and leaving approximately 300,000 people homeless.1

Safely Transporting Chemicals

The best way to overcome the safety challenges in transporting and storing bulk chemicals is an the BulkTainer™ ISO tank. BulkTainer® intermodal transportation services use a globally standardized ISO tank for transporting liquid chemicals globally across all modes. The main benefit is their enhanced safety and security in transporting liquid chemicals using intermodal strategies that combine road, rail, and ocean networks. Using an intermodal transportation strategy, chemical containers are frequently handled and passed between vehicles. The standardized size and features of a BulkTainer™ ISO tank using BulkTainer® intermodal transportation services dramatically reduce the possibility of accidents that commonly occur in shipping.

Following Regulations

The potentially volatile or hazardous nature of many chemical products introduces unique complications to chemical logistics from a regulatory compliance standpoint. A safe and optimized chemical transportation network must follow all regulations set forth by the US and other countries to ensure proper safety, transportation, storage, and handling precautions are strictly followed. As HAZMAT regulations around the world continue to change and tighten, it’s vital to remain diligent about staying up to date on those changes. Chemical 4PL specialists like CLX Logistics partner with chemical manufacturers and shippers to manage and guide their operations, ensuring safety and compliance.

Tying it Together with Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal transportation means shipping goods using more than one mode of transportation. For example, chemical products imported from China to the US use intermodal shipping through a combination of ships, trucks, and rail to transport product from the manufacturer or distributor to a final destination. In the US, intermodal refers to a ­combination of trucks and rail to transport products in a single shipment. This method offers significant opportunities to enhance the value of a chemical supply chain when transporting bulk chemical products.

A typical intermodal strategy for transporting bulk liquid chemicals looks like this:

  1. A truck arrives at a chemical plant with an ISO tank container on a 40-foot chassis, loaded the same way as an OTR tank truck.
  2. When the ISO tank is full, the truck takes it to the nearest railroad intermodal facility where it’s transferred to a railroad flatcar.
  3. The train ­transports the ISO tank closer to its destination.
  4. When the train arrives at the closest ­intermodal facility to the consignee, the tank is loaded back onto an awaiting truck for final delivery.

Using this process, chemical shippers utilize one ISO tank container to transport liquids throughout the entire ­shipment process as part of a single journey while leveraging the significant cost savings and energy efficiency of the railways.

BulkTainer® Intermodal Transportation Services

We’ve talked about why the BulkTainer™ is invaluable for transporting chemicals, but how does it fit in with an intermodal shipping strategy? It turns out the BulkTainer ISO™  tank was designed for precisely this use! Because reusable BulkTainer™ ISO tanks are built to standardized dimensions, these stainless steel cylindrical containers provide a safe and reliable means to transport hazardous and non-hazardous materials by truck, train, and ship without unloading products.

At specific container terminals, BulkTainer™ ISO tanks are easily transferred between modes with container cranes, allowing products to avoid the delays and capacity issues that are so often present with standard OTR shipping services. With a fleet of BulkTainer™ ISO tanks for bulk liquid chemicals, CLX Logistics provides greater flexibility, superior safety and reliability, and increased potential for savings with BulkTainer® intermodal transportation services.

What Are the Key Advantages of Intermodal Transportation?

  • Save Up to 30% Compared to OTR Chemical Shipments
    Intermodal transportation helps shippers cut costs by up to 30% on deliveries across the United States with a state-of-the-art intermodal transportation network and industry-leading TMS.
  • Eliminate Driver Capacity Constraint Issues
    Whether drivers are falling ill, a region has been wracked by storms, or any other situation that would cause capacity issues, intermodal eliminates these concerns while keeping costs low.
  • Forward Storage Solutions
    Intermodal solves time constraints with solutions with forward storage solutions, allowing for strategic product storage that can be dispatched to customers throughout the region at a moment’s notice.
  • Reduce Your Overall Carbon Footprint
    Significant use of railways dramatically reduces the environmental impact of commercial transportation by a factor of four compared to over-the-road.

Upgrading Your Transportation & Supply Chain Network to Intermodal

Now that you know how intermodal transportation and BulkTainer™ ISO tanks combine to improve chemical supply chain operations and safety, start thinking about using these tactics to save time and money for yourself and your clients. Talk to CLX Logistics today to get started. With a little information about the chemicals you’re shipping, quantities, and destinations, along with some input on any specific challenges in your existing process, we can develop an intermodal solution that delivers dependability and savings that directly benefit your customers.

Back to Resources