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Transload Facilities: Choosing a Powerful Resource for Your Freight

Shipping containers at a transload facility at night
Transload Facilities: Choosing a Powerful Resource for Your Freight
Transloading has become a popular approach for solving many of today's logistics challenges. Be sure you consider the right factors before partnering with a transload facility.
By Transload Services USA
 | October 13, 2021
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Last Modified: June 1, 2023

Transload facilities are an invaluable resource when it comes to the management and shipping of freight. This logistical solution is miles ahead of any other form of shipping in regard to speed, efficiency, and accountability.

Important factors to consider when choosing a transload facility include:

  • Services and equipment provided
  • Compliance with federal regulations
  • Proximity to final delivery points
  • Operating capacity

Choosing how you manage and ship your cargo can be a critical decision when it comes to your invested capital and the loyalty of your customers.

This article offers insight into what you need to know when choosing this resource for your freight.

Trucks driving next to a ship at an ocean port

What is a Transloading Facility?

A transload facility is a type of freight distribution center that specializes in the transference of goods from one mode of transportation to another. These structures are designed to expedite the movement of goods by reducing time, labor, and the finances associated with the process.

Transloading facilities provide a bridge between modes of transportation, often allowing customers to move goods quickly and efficiently between road, air, rail, barge, and ocean transport.

Most transloading facilities also offer additional services, such as inventory tracking, extended storage, load rework, and cross-docking. 

Example of Transload Facilities in Action

  1. A customer makes arrangements for a bulk load shipment of steel.
  2. The shipment requires the initial use of multiple trucks.
  3. The trucks are loaded and travel to a rail transload facility.
  4. Freight is offloaded and moved to rail cars for the longest leg of the journey.
  5. Once the rail line arrives at its destination, the cargo is loaded onto trucks.
  6. The truck sets out for last-mile delivery.

This scenario illustrates the process of freight transference using multiple modes of transportation. The reason for using different types of transportation is so that the shipment has the flexibility to deal with varying terrain, weather, time tables, and cost requirements.

This scenario paints a picture of what transloading is all about. Shippers like to know that the handling and exchange of their freight is done at a transload facility by skilled and trained professionals. This way, the risk of damage and loss is greatly reduced.

In some instances, transloading is the only way to get your freight from one side of the country to the other. Typically, this requirement is a direct result of shipment volume, storage requirement, or product type. 

Here are a few examples of commodities that often require transloading:

Transload warehouses are strategically located near airports, rail lines, barge docks, and ocean ports. Essentially, anywhere that is considered a hub for shipping, there are transload facility solutions.

These facilities can also be used to help reduce the cost of freight forwarding, as they allow goods to be transferred directly to their destination without having to be moved by another freight company.

Finally, transloading facilities can also help to reduce the environmental impact of shipping goods.Transloading greatly reduces the amount of fuel consumed during the entirety of the transfer process.

Transload Warehouse Services and Equipment

Equally important to locating a transload facility is finding out what kind of services and equipment they offer. This is a critical factor in determining if that transload facility design works for you. Some transload facilities may not have the ability to properly handle your shipment.

The right service options and equipment are everything when considering transload facilities as a method of conveyance for your freight. For example, a shipment inbound by rail car will likely require gantry cranes, heavy duty forklifts, or other specialized equipment.

Time is money, there is no time for inconsistencies or failed solutions. When freight needs to be moved, transload facilities are the single most flexible option and it's a rotating process that is in operation all hours of the day.

Questions to ask when choosing a transload facility include:

  1.     What type of equipment is used to load and unload freight?
  2.     Can the transloading facility handle your specific type of freight?
  3.     Is the site easily accessible to trucks?
  4.     Does the site offer real-time visibility?

Transload warehouses are generally equipped with various loading and unloading equipment such as conveyor belts, cranes, and forklifts. This equipment allows for the efficient movement of goods from one mode of transport to another. 

Depending on the facility, the staff may also be trained to handle unique types of cargo, from dry goods to hazardous materials (HAZMAT). It can also be used to transfer goods between different types of containers, such as transferring goods from a large shipping container to a smaller one. 

In some cases, as a shipper, you may need to have a large bulk delivery separated into smaller shipments. The breaking down of large shipments like this typically occurs at rail transload facilities so that shipments can be loaded into container cars.

Logistics Regulations For Transload Facilities

Transload facilities must comply with numerous federal regulations, including those set by the DOT, DHS, EPA, and OSHA. All transload operations must be conducted in a manner that does not create a public nuisance or adversely affect the environment.

These regulations may include restrictions on the types of hazardous materials that can be stored or handled at a transload facility, requirements for the storage of hazardous materials, and environmental protections such as air and water quality standards. 

Truckload Transload Facility Regulations

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal agency responsible for regulating truckload transload facilities. The FMCSA regulates the compliance with safety regulations and rules. 
  • These regulations cover areas such as driver qualifications, vehicle maintenance, hours of service, and cargo securement. Also, the FMCSA enforces penalties for violations of safety, while working to reduce the number of accidents at transload facilities.

Rail Transload Facility Regulations

  • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulates all rail transload facilities across the country. These facilities are monitored to ensure federal compliance along with regulating the safe operations of these sites.
  • This agency ensures that transload facilities are properly designed and equipped to safely function and provide adequate safe access for employees.

Federal laws such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Recovery Act may apply to transload facilities. State and local regulations may also be in place to ensure compliance with these laws and other topics such as noise pollution, odor control, and safety standards.

Rail transload facility next to an ocean port

Proximity to Final Delivery Points

Ensuring freight reaches its final delivery point is a top priority for shippers when securing a transloading facility. The ideal facility will generally be within an accessible range of both pickup or the final delivery point.

Shippers may look to use a container transloading operation in a specific region,  such as the busy eastern corridor. This area is home to a variety of ocean ports and regional manufacturing hubs, making for an intricate network of transportation options.

Transloading throughout the West Coast of the U.S. or the southwest and Midwest covers critical shipping lanes throughout the country. A strategic logistics partner can assist with coordinating freight through transload facilities and then to their final delivery point. 

Our team will develop ant effective transload strategy for your supply chain. We do this by understanding your unique needs and developing an efficient plan through our strategically located facilities and resources. 

Whether the freight is bulky and needs heavy equipment to move or the shipment is perishable and time-sensitive, Transload Services USA can coordinate transloading when you need it.

Operating Capacity

Moving freight is a 24-7 job. Freight is always in some phase of the transportation process. When looking for transload facilities, you will want to ensure they have an adequate capacity to support your supply chain.

Annual Transload Flow Across America (in millions of tons) 

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

As more shippers utilize transloading, the calendar gets crowded thanks to many shipments arriving and departing. It is essential to ask about the operational capacity of a transload facility to ensure a shipment of temperature or time sensitive goods are not overlooked if operations are chaotic.

Working closely with a logistics expert can help eliminate the risk of your cargo being damaged. A transload specialist can get your freight moved safely and efficiently during the transloading process.

A transload crane lifts a container onto a truck chassis

Find Transload Facilities with Transload Services USA

Navigating the waters of freight transportation can become complicated quickly. Let Transload Services USA help acquire the right transload facilities for your business. With a dedicated network of facilities coast-to-coast, we can provide a solution no matter the location.

In addition to transloading, we offer a wide array of other services that are sure to help your business succeed:

Our team of experts can also customize other services on request while providing the best solutions to maximize the reach of your business. Call (866) 757-1109 or click here to obtain a free, cost-effective quote today.

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