Consolidation among the largest (Class I) railroads in North America over the last generation has yielded an efficient and profitable rail cargo transport system. Rail freight rates are lower than truck and are more environmentally friendly.
Most important has been the development of intermodal transportation, usually thought of as a combination of truck and rail for delivery, in the case of international shipments, to or from a port. 3PLs that have intermodal expertise are able to route cargo over intermodal connections seamlessly.
Shippers that have competing rail services at their disposal are in the best shape to negotiate good rates, although that is not the case with every location. Intermodal services can sometimes compete with straight rail services.
Regional Class II and local short-line railroads interconnect with the Class Is and also play an important role in moving goods to and from ports. The rail carriers and the 3PLs that work with them provide not only the services but also the equipment required for shippers to take advantage of these services.