Intermodal is a global transportation method that incorporates a variety of types of transportation like sea freight, air freight, rail, and trucking, etc.
Per the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) intermodal transportation can be defined as:
“Movement of the goods (in the same loader or the vehicle) through various modes of transportation without handling of the items themselves as they change methods.”
The majority of cargo shipped internationally using ocean freight is transported via land at some point in the journey.
The cargo is typically transported by rail and/or trucks from the warehouse of the shipper or another pickup location until the destination port and then from your destination port to the factory, warehouse, or the address specified by the shipper.
A shipment must meet the following conditions to be considered to be intermodal.
- It is transported by a single transport mean throughout, typically the shipping container.
- Cargo inside the container cannot be unconsolidated or consolidated at any time during transport.
Differentialities between multimodal and intermodal transport
Due to the similarities between intermodal and multimodal travel, it is quite common to mix the two. There are a lot of instances that the two are used interchangeably as though they were one. However, they are not.
There are two major distinctions between intermodal transportation and multimodal transportation. The first is the quantity in transportation agreements and their transportation units.
Multimodal and Intermodal: The Number of Contracts
In Intermodal transportation, the shipper generally has contracts with various service providers, such as the freight broker to the shipping company to the trucking firm.
Multimodal transport, however, requires only one agreement (usually with the carrier) with a single carrier responsible for the movement of the cargo through the various modes of transport.
Intermodal vs Multimodal: Transportation Units
A further difference between intermodal transportation and multimodal transportation lies in the transportation units they use.
In Intermodal transport, a single unit of transportation is utilized throughout the entire journey regardless of the mode of transport changes.
Multimodal transportation is the term used to describe a range of transport units that span transport modes.