Whose Fault is it, Anyway? 5 Common Anomalies in Intermodal Shipping

We all know that in logistics, sometimes unavoidable “stuff happens”. The world of intermodal shipping is no different. It’s important for intermodal logistics companies and shippers to all be aware of what they have control over and should actively work to prevent, versus what incidents are simply anomalies. Let’s go over some possible odd ball incidents and who, or what, can prevent them from happening. 


Trains don’t often derail, but when they do, everyone hears about it. The fact is, although it’s a rare occurrence, these incidents are usually not preventable-at least not by you or your intermodal provider. 

Trains can derail for a variety of reasons:  issues with the track, human error, or mechanical issues with the train. Obviously, an intermodal shipping company can’t predict or prevent this, but they can help you through the claims process if a derailment occurs, as well as educate you on how to block and brace your shipments to help avoid this. One of the only times a claim can be filed on intermodal shipments and have a real chance of being won, is when the train derails and there were no errors in blocking and bracing the freight.

Train Lateness

Delays can happen with any type of shipment, but trains can sometimes arrive later than predicted due to an array of reasons, whether there’s something mechanically wrong with the train, or a strong storm prohibits safe travel. Regardless, this is another situation where it’s typically out of the intermodal marketing company’s hands.

However, modern technological updates to the intermodal industry have allowed for the best tracking methods in its history. With that being said, any type of delay can be instantly communicated to you so that you can plan accordingly.  It’s also recommended that extremely time-sensitive freight not be shipped over the rail, due to lack of control over delays.

Capacity Availability

There might come a time when your intermodal shipping provider informs you of delays or inability to ship at certain times due to capacity. Since there are only a handful of railway companies across the nation, equipment can be in short supply at any given time. This goes for dray carriers, chassis, and containers.

You might wonder “why shouldn’t I work directly with the rail so I have a better shot at their capacity?” Unfortunately, shippers cannot work directly with the rail, only intermodal shipping companies can. 


This seems pretty obvious, but it’s worth noting: weather has a mind of its own. This can be particularly obvious when big storms come through, like hurricanes and blizzards.

Delays in shipping times are definitely not preventable for these events, but you can be prepared by following approaching storms and monitoring your supply. If you need the freight at the destination as soon as possible before the storm hits, shipping earlier than usual on the rail is one option, or perhaps another mode of transportation, like expedited LTL or truckload, would be a better option.

As mentioned above, high-tech tracking equipment will keep you updated throughout the shipping process and through any delays.

Improperly Blocked and Braced Shipments

One of the top tips for ensuring your freight arrives in the same condition it left the origin in is to properly block and brace it in the shipping container. This process is slightly different for each shipment based on its size and dimensions. If the shipment is not properly secured, it can shift during transport, which can not only damage your freight, but even cause a derailment in some cases.

Unfortunately, if your shipment is found to not be blocked and braced properly, it can fall back on you as the shipper, since the shipper is held responsible for the bracing of their shipments.  

No one likes bad surprises, like a delay in shipping or damaged freight, but the good news is Trinity can help with most issues that may cause these problems. Sometimes things just happen, and the intermodal shipping provider may not be to blame. Rest assured, keeping an open line of communication with your intermodal shipping company can minimize potential issues. To learn more about intermodal shipping, click here.