Intermodal vs OTR Freight Shipping: Pros and Cons

Intermodal vs OTR Freight Shipping: Pros and Cons

Freight shipping is important in this country. Ground transportation includes over the road transportation or intermodal cargo shipping (truck, rail).  Over the road freight shipping  offers safety, security, flexibility, and size.  We have made a guide to compare the pros and cons of trains vs trucks.

What Is Over the Road (OTR) Transportation?

Over the road transportation refers to freight transported only by truck over long distances. OTR transportation requires drivers on the road for several days, driving hundreds of miles, and hauling a variety of freight. Over the road transportation is ideal as a major ground transportation option.

When Should You Use OTR Freight Shipping?

Over the road transportation is flexible and convenient. OTR shipping provides efficiency for time-sensitive freight. OTR transportation allows freight to be expedited. OTR transportation is appropriate if freight is fragile, temperature controlled, or highly expensive. OTR transportation has definite advantages when comparing trains vs trucks.

Advantages of the OTR Freight Transportation

trains vs trucks

Over the road freight shipping is advantageous when comparing trains vs trucks. OTR shipping is flexible since it’s not restricted by rigid train schedules, routes, timeframes, or load types. OTR transportation can move any type of over the road freight wherever and whenever necessary and can manage large cargo loads.  Over the road transportation is efficient and reliable. The safety and security of OTR freight are a clear advantage in OTR shipping. Valuable freight is monitored by the driver, compared to truck vs rail transportation, where cargo is unobserved. Intermodal cargo shipping is an alternative transport option.

What Is Intermodal Freight Shipping?

Intermodal cargo shipping refers to transporting freight by several types of transportation, such as rail and truck. When transporting intermodal cargo, over the road freight is transferred from truck to rail to complete an additional part of the transport. There are benefits of intermodal vs truckload.

Advantages of the Intermodal Freight Transportation

Shipping by rail vs truck or intermodal cargo shipping has advantages if there are no time constraints. Intermodal cargo shipping by rail can be efficient and cost-effective if comparing trains vs trucks. Shipping by rail vs truck is more environmentally friendly. Discussing truck vs rail transportation, trains are more fuel efficient and shipping by rail vs truck can lower greenhouse gas emissions by 75% while decreasing highway traffic congestion.  A clear advantage of intermodal cargo transport when contrasting trains vs trucks, is the capacity of trains to haul huge loads. There are also disadvantages to intermodal cargo shipping.

Disadvantages of Intermodal Freight Shipping

otr freight

In the trains vs trucks debate, certain drawbacks to intermodal cargo shipping are noteworthy.

  • Slower transport:  When shipping by rail vs truck, rail transport can be slower than OTR transportation.
  • Inflexible routes:  Routes and timetables are inflexible with intermodal vs truckload.
  • Rail delays: A concern with trains vs trucks is train mechanical failure, congested rail ramps, lack of rail services, and the inability for a train to reroute compared to OTR transportation.
  • Lack of prioritization: When comparing trains vs. trucks, railroads do not prioritize a single intermodal cargo container, whereas OTR transportation is more personalized. Intermodal cargo transport requires more planning.


When comparing intermodal vs OTR freight shipping, it is helpful to recognize the benefits of trains vs trucks to make the best decision for transporting freight. As you can see, there are distinct advantages to using over the road transportation compared to intermodal transportation options. Now that you understand the differences and benefits of over the road transportation compared to intermodal transportation, you can decide which OTR freight shipping company is appropriate for your business transportation needs. Choosing the right shipping company is an important decision. Contact Cowtown Express to get your freight shipping quote today.

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