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Multimodal transport - what is it about? Discover its greatest advantages.

In order to optimally and economically plan transport, one should look for solutions best suited to the challenges of the transport of goods. The answer may be to focus on multimodal transport, which you can read more about later in the text.

Multimodal transport - definition

Multimodal transport is the transport of goods using two or more types of transport, e.g. road and air transport, or road, rail and sea transport, with the possibility of reloading the goods (including groupage reloading) to another transport unit. This type of transport is used when goods are transported over very long distances to a destination in another country. The most important document for multimodal transport is the "FIATA Multimodal Transport Bill of Lading" (known as FBL), which organizes many issues important for importers and exporters. According to its provision, the multimodal operator is responsible for the goods during the entire transport, not only its individual parts. Multimodal transport can occur in two forms: as intermodal or combined transport. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, which, however, is a mistake.

Intermodal transport and combined transport

Intermodal transport is a kind of multimodal narrowing. It takes place using several modes of transport, but the goods do not change the loading unit or the vehicle in which they are transported, e.g. it spends the entire journey from the sender to the recipient on one and the same swap body or in the same container - without opening and reloading changing the type of transport, which certainly reduces the risk of its damage. On the other hand, the main feature of combined transport is the fact that most of the transport is carried out by sea, inland waterway or rail, but deliveries and drop-offs are already carried out by road transport and at strictly defined distances. As you can see, all these terms refer to transport using different modes of transport, but they describe slightly different cases.

Multimodal transport - advantages and disadvantages

The unquestionable advantage of multimodal transport is the ability to ship goods over long distances, which is impossible in the case of forwarding using only one form of transport. It is also worth paying attention to the speed of transport. This is due to the huge optimization of the entire process, resulting from the combination of different types of forwarding. Depending on the possibilities of a given area, an appropriate type of transport is used: e.g. trucks and railroads on land (a good example are express freight trains from China to Europe), and container ships at sea. Therefore, it is a great solution, inter alia, for trading products with a relatively short expiry date or seasonality - e.g. in the trade of goods such as groceries or clothing. If we care about the price, multimodal transport may again turn out to be a good choice (especially when one of the modes of transport is sea freight). Similarly, if our priority is the safety of goods - after all, we can use the intermodal transport option, which involves the use of several modes of transport while maintaining the same loading unit, and this significantly reduces the risk of damage. What's more, the ordering party, choosing multimodal transport, incurs only one, overall shipping fee.
On the other hand, this type of transport can also have some inconveniences, but mainly related to the technical side. In order to increase the efficiency of the process, the most common goal is to unit the shipped goods, i.e. to combine many packages into one whole, the so-called loading unit, and this can be a pain. If we do not use this unified option, and there are several reloading points (e.g. cranes, gantry cranes) on the route of the goods' journey from the sender to the recipient, the risk of damage increases. The possibilities of transporting special parcels, e.g. animals, are also limited

Multimodal transport - examples

  • Rail-sea transport
  • Road and air transport
  • Road and sea transport
  • Road-rail transport
  • Road-rail-water transport
  • Road-rail-air transport
  • Road-rail-sea transport

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Rhenus Logistics S.A.

Radonice 46 B

PL 05-870 Błonie

Tel.: +48 22 463 95 00

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