Particularly in international freight traffic, intermodal transports are daily practice. They make long routes efficient. The key to this consists of complexly linked transport chains as well as a fast turnover of loading units between the modes of transport. Mobile apps with their connected systems and live tracking simplify the control of combined transports.
The longer the transport chains, the more likely they are to consist of multimodal transport. Long distances are the key to make a transfer of goods from truck to rail and ship more efficient – combined with short pre-carriage and onward carriage by road. With increasing capacity of the means of transport their energy consumption in relation to the goods transported is reduced and transport becomes more economical. However, the coordination of the individual transport steps becomes more demanding and the transshipment must be optimally organized.
Multimodal transports require precise supply chain management
For intermodal transports to reach their destination successfully, the transshipment must be planned precisely. The key is to ensure that the trucks reach the transshipment points on time. At the same time, the transhipment processes must also be perfectly organised. This includes ensuring that the loads, including loading units such as semi-trailers, swap bodies or containers, are transhipped and that the change from road to rail or waterway takes place in a short time. For supply chain managers, this means:
- Plan for accessible connections
- Select loading units suitable for transshipment
- Monitor transport routes
- Take handling time into account when setting the pace
Because broken transports require more monitoring, dispatchers benefit particularly from IT solutions that monitor the transport status in real time. Mobile apps used by truck drivers, for example, provide them with the current vehicle position and the estimated time of arrival (ETA) at the next stage destination. An arrival monitor with live data also enables them to quickly identify process disruptions and implement alternative courses of action as early as possible.
Telematics systems and apps provide process data
In order to monitor each transport route and the punctual arrival at the next stage destination, logistics specialists need status information that cannot only come from the truck. The can only asses the punctuality of ship passages and train journeys they need to continuously receive information from there as well. To ensure this, they can rely on special sensors that independently transmit their GPS position even without vehicle telematics or a mobile app in the smartphone. This data is processed, for example, by the same solutions that are used for pure truck transport. These show the current position on a map and display the ETA in an arrival monitor.
Special load carriers for multimodal transports
Combined transport did not experience a surge in development until suitable load carriers became available in the form of containers and swap bodies, which could be handled complete with the goods. On the other hand, even smaller transhipments were hardly economical due to the high costs involved. For this reason, mixed cargo has no longer been transported by train for many decades. This is because rail is particularly efficient for direct transport. However, from the point of view of sustainability and resource efficiency, transhipment terminals for rail transport have been optimised for faster throughput for some years now. Modern transshipment points have since been equipped with an entrance and exit. This means that locomotives no longer need to be changed and the transhipment time is reduced to a quarter of the time previously required. Moreover, in addition to containers and swap bodies, entire semi-trailers can now also be loaded. In the organisation of intermodal transports, this offers the opportunity to consolidate loads for long distances.
Multimodal transports benefit from mobile apps and software solutions
The term multimodal transport stands for a combination of transport modes that has always impressed with its efficiency. Thanks to the development of modern IT and telematics systems, mobile apps and sensors that independently transmit location information, intermodal transports can also be monitored much more easily and thus controlled more precisely. This in turn meets the requirements for a reliable and transparent transport chain that is synchronized with its connecting processes. Under these conditions, combined transports can even be considered for just-in-time logistics, for example in the automotive industry. In any case, they make an important contribution to environmental protection and higher resource efficiency.