Intermodal transport: what it is and what the advantages are

Intermodal transport is one of the main logistics areas that we deal with here at C.T.I. International Forwarder. It is a method of transferring goods that combines several means of transportation and is an interesting system for companies that want to improve the efficiency of their supply chain. Let’s take a detailed look at what intermodal transport is, how it works, and what its advantages are.

What is meant by intermodal freight transport?

The increase in international freight traffic that began in the early 1950s created the need for increasingly efficient transport solutions, standardizing long-distance journeys and minimizing the use of resources. Hence, intermodal transport is being increasingly implemented to achieve this goal.

According to EU Directive No. 92/106/EEC, intermodal transport is defined as the use of maritime or rail services that span a distance of more than 100 km and that are combined with road transportation at the beginning and end of the journey. Through this method it is therefore possible to optimize the loading and unloading of goods, which, being arranged in loading units such as containers, mobile crates, and semi-trailers, can be easily transferred to different means of transport.

The main characteristic of this type of transport is that the goods must be placed in a specific Intermodal Transport Unit (ITU), from which they are never moved until they reach their final destination. In this way, goods do not have to be handled during transshipment. Furthermore, intermodal transport induces one to consider transportation not as a sum of individual and autonomous activities, but as a global goods transfer process in the perspective of an integrated logistics chain.

Why choose intermodal transport? The advantages

The possibility of combining several means of transport, such as ships, trains, trucks, and planes, makes intermodal transport advantageous in many ways. Let’s take a look at the benefits it can offer:

Efficiency: the intermodal system maximizes the benefits of the different means of transport used, such as the capacity of trains, the convenience of ships, the speed of planes or the flexibility of road transport.

Convenience: the combined use of several means of transport makes it possible to optimize time and reduce the costs of transferring goods.

Safety: the products, placed in dedicated loading units, do not have to be handled during shipment, as it is sufficient to transfer the specific ITU to another means of transport. This reduces the risk of damage.

Control: intermodal transport involves precise planning of movements between the different vehicles, which allows for continuous tracking.

Sustainability: intermodal transport is one of the most effective ways towards sustainable logistics. In fact, intramodality foresees the use of road transport only in the first and last mile of the entire transport operation, significantly reducing CO2 emissions.

The differences between intermodal, multimodal, and combined transport

In addition to the term ‘intermodal’, one often hears of multimodal and combined transport, but these are not synonyms. Multimodal transport simply intends a service that uses different means of transportation to deliver goods to their destination. Intermodal transport, on the other hand, indicates a specific type of multimodal transport that is carried out using a single load unit. Finally, combined transport is when the mode of transfer is mainly by rail or sea, limiting road transport as much as possible.

Intermodal transport at C.T.I.

At C.T.I. International Forwarder, thanks to a dense network of international relations and many years of experience in the logistics sector, we plan intermodal transport down to the smallest detail, choosing the safest, fastest, and most cost-effective modes. With competence, dedication, and passion, we strive to guarantee a complete service capable of satisfying all our customers’ needs each and every day.

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