You Should Ship Refrigerated Intermodal In the Winter. Sound Silly? It Isn’t, and Here’s Why.

October 21, 2020

As winter approaches, and potentially extreme winter weather along with it, there are additional considerations to keep in mind when you’re determining how to ship your product – especially if that product is fragile, perishable or otherwise susceptible to extreme temperatures.

Almost across the board, Agforce recommends looking into temp-controlled intermodal for the winter months. Here’s why:

It’s Faster

  • Temp-controlled intermodal gets to its destination faster than dry intermodal, because refrigerated boxes get put on faster trains.
  • Refrigerated boxes are also given priority at the terminals, either notifying or making cross-town transfers.

It Can Be Less Expensive

  • In an elevated market like we are currently in, you’ll save money vs. going over the road (and potentially save a couple days of transit time).
  • If you’re going to ship refrigerated regardless, intermodal refrigerated is almost always cheaper than OTR refrigerated.

It’s More Secure

  • If a breakdown occurs and the unit can no longer maintain its temp, that’s on them – not you. You’ll be fully covered for any damages to your product.
  • Temp-controlled means your product is protected from warm and cold bursts. You can ship stress-free knowing any unforeseen weather won’t affect your product.

There’s More Availability

  • During peak, we can be mode-neutral and ship dry shipments on refrigerated intermodal carriers to secure additional rail capacity.
  • The refrigerated boxes come from a different pool, and we often find there’s capacity in that pool even when there isn’t with dry.

These benefits apply to all our customers, no matter what industry you’re in or what you’re shipping. But there are certain customers who we strongly encourage to switch to temp-controlled intermodal in the winter.

We’re talking to you, food, beverage, wine and beer shippers.

Unfortunately, we’re speaking from experience. We’ve seen winter weather damage wine and beer more times than we can count.

For example, we had an instance where a customer chose to ship wine dry intermodal because at the time, that provided an up-front cost savings. But then, things happened … as things often do. There were rail delays and a cold snap that wasn’t in the forecast, which not only caused more rain delays but caused about $100k worth of her product to freeze solid. The wine was ruined.

Because the customer had the option to ship temp-controlled and declined it, they were the only ones on the hook for the loss. Had they shipped temp-controlled, not only would the product have been protected from the elements, but any damage due to malfunctioning of the refrigerated unit would have been covered by the carrier.

When you work with Agforce, we give you all the options. We’ll talk you through the downs and the ups of each one (like, you might pay a bit more up-front for one mode of transport, but it’s much less risky than the others) and work with you to understand what’s important to you, your buyers, and your product.

Ready to make a plan for your winter shipping? Give us a call at 877.367.2324 or email We’ll get you squared away before the first frost.

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