Multimodal transport describes the self-contained transport process in which different means of transport are used to move the goods from the consignor to the consignee. One speaks of multimodal or broken traffic when two or more different means of transport are involved in the transportation of the shipment.
In contrast to multimodal transport, the shipment of goods in direct transport is organized using only one means of transport.
Intermodal transport is often used as a synonym for multimodal transport, but it correctly represents a special subform of multimodal transport. In intermodal logistics, the change of means of transport takes place via standardized transport containers such as containers or other swap bodies. Thus, the shipment changes the means of transport in the closed transport unit.
Use of multimodal transport
A shipment is always multimodal when it is not possible in direct transport without changing the means of transport or transshipment. In most cases, the reason is spatial. For example, the goods to be transported are produced domestically and must then first be transported to a port by truck, as transport to the destination is by ship. Likewise, it is conceivable that partial distances are covered by rail.
Combination of means of transport
Due to the high importance of international freight transport, containers are of great significance for the entire logistics sector. Combined with the use of digital technologies and telematics, this facilitates the management of complex transport chains. The economic strengths and weaknesses of the available means of transport in multimodal traffic can thus be transparently identified for optimized selection. Transportation by ship can carry large volumes of goods in an energy- and cost-efficient manner, but takes more time due to the slow speed of the ship. Transportation by truck can be used very flexibly, but the mode of transport is limited in terms of loading capacity. Rail can transport much larger quantities, but is tied to the rail network, so rail is less flexible.
Depending on the goods and the start and destination, these available means of transport can be optimally combined in multimodal transport.