While most people are unaware of it, intermodal freight transport has been around for quite some time, going all the way back to the 1780s in England. The method of moving a container holding freight from one vehicle to another without having to handle the freight itself has grown from ships and rail to include trucks and barges as technology has evolved. The use of standardized containers, or ISO containers, has allowed shipping across country and nations to flourish, thanks to the time and money saved by crossing land bridges.
Land bridge is a reference to an intermodal freight shipment that starts on a ship then crosses a body of land for a significant part of the trip en route to its final destination. The land portion of the trip is referred to as the land bridge, with rail typically being the method of transport while crossing. There are, of course, different types of bridges – standard bridges, mini bridges, and micro bridges.
A standard bridge is when an intermodal container shipped by ocean vessel from point A to point B crosses over an entire country before reaching its final destination. For example, a container is being shipped from Japan to England is loaded onto a ship in Japan which then docks in Los Angeles where the container is transferred to a train and taken to New York where it is put on another ship and completes its journey to England.
A mini bridge is when a container is similar to a standard land bridge with a minor change. Whereas a standard bridge involves the container starting and ending its voyage on a ship, only crossing over a country in an effort to get to another ship, a mini bridge takes the second ship out of the equation. Using our example from above, a mini land bridge would be if the containers final destination was in New York instead of England.
A micro bridge is close in definition to a mini land bridge, with the exception being that, still using our example from above, that whereas a mini bridge would extend to New York, a micro bridge would see the container end up somewhere like Chicago or Denver, an interior land destination.
Thanks to intermodal shipping and land bridges, moving freight that once would have had to make large detours to avoid land masses is now possible via the most direct route. This allows companies to save time and money which can then be passed on to their customers.