Standard Intermodal Transportation Contract

May 23, 2007
by Robert A. Voltmann Over the last two decades, the intermodal sector of the freight transportation industry has experienced explosive growth. According

by Robert A. Voltmann

Over the last two decades, the intermodal sector of the freight transportation industry has experienced explosive growth. According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), rail intermodal traffic in the United States tripled from 3.1 million trailers and containers in 1980 to 9.3 million by 2002.

Rail intermodal service offers the advantage of moving freight long distances with less labor and at greater savings then by truck. Modern rail service minimizes load shift and in transit visibility allows shippers and logistics companies to always know where the freight is at every stage of the process. In order to take full advantage of the benefits of modern intermodal freight transportation, however, both shippers and logistics companies need to start with an industry-standard, mutually-beneficial contract.

Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA, has created the "Model Shipper-Broker Intermodal Transportation Agreement," with the same objective and benefits of the previously developed "Model Shipper-Logistics Agreement," and the "Model Broker-Carrier Agreement."

Drawing on the success of these contracts, the new agreement promotes uniformity in contract provisions while increasing efficiency in negotiations. Simply put, it provides a balanced template for both parties entering into a rail intermodal freight transportation agreement. Moreover, the contract covers the legs of typical rail intermodal freight movement: motor transportation from the shipper to the rail ramp; rail transportation from the origin rail ramp to the destination rail ramp; and motor transportation from the destination rail ramp to the receiver of the freight.

The Shipper-Broker Intermodal Transportation Agreement provides important provisions and clauses that protect both parties. Among them:

  • Clear, bilateral obligations
  • Equal protections
  • Rail carrier rules
  • Cargo claims
  • Statute of limitations
  • Dispute resolution and mediation clause.

Beyond these provisions, the agreement also includes negotiable items such as rates and charges, limitation of liability, and insurance coverage. Optional appendices include additional service provisions, freight and accessorial charges, fuel surcharge and a freight documentation form that doubles as a pick-up and delivery receipt.

Because it was designed specifically by TIA's intermodal marketing company members and their customers (in conjunction with the National Industrial Transportation League, NITL,, the Shipper-Broker Intermodal Transportation Agreement equally represents both shippers and 3PLs, the first model intermodal contract of its kind. It establishes an industry standard that will make it easier and more efficient for both parties to do business with each other. This, while effectively dealing with liability that protects all parties, thus saving time and money with every transaction.

Rail intermodal service is an essential component in moving freight to market. As our highways become more congested, rail freight will increase in importance. The Shipper-Broker Intermodal Transportation Agreement is designed to faster increase use of rail intermodal by shippers and 3PLs.

Robert A. Voltmann is president and CEO of the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA, TIA is a professional and educational organization for the third-party logistics industry.

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