Intermodal Transportation Regulations

Intermodal transportation can be defined as “seamless door-to-door freight transport operations using at least two different modes of transport” (Harn & Toshinori, 2005, p. 3). Historically, freight logistics markets were strictly regulated in both Europe and the USA. Policies, laws, and regulations helped protect the existing firms’ position within the sector yet challenged the survival of new entrants. Nowadays, one can observe a trend towards the liberalization (deregulation) of intermodal logistics in these regions. The given trend creates new opportunities for innovation and competition in the market. The impacts of regulation/deregulation on intermodal transportation in the USA and Europe will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

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European Union

A well-developed transportation system plays an essential role in the EU’s efforts to create a unified market and break down the barriers between the member states. The Common Transport Policy is one of the major documents that help develop a supportive environment for the integration of transportation operations between the European countries. It mainly aims to encourage the development of Trans-European Transport Networks, promote further deregulation of the transportation markets, and increase the sustainability of networks (Reggiani, Cattaneo, Janic, & Nijkamp, 2000). This and some other transport policies introduced in Europe at the beginning of the 21st century largely contribute to revitalizing alternative transportation modes and substantially increase market access, especially in the road transport market.

At the same time, the liberalization of the rail sector remained delayed in many member states because they strived to maintained national monopolies (Senior European Exports Group, 2013). Thus, it is still largely associated with unequal competition, which complicates the development of intermodal logistics. Nevertheless, as part of the deregulation process, some European states, e.g., Netherlands, initiated the programs such as the Marco Polo program aimed to establish contacts between the government and private organizations to increase their engagement in the intermodal logistics activities (Harn & Toshinori, 2005). Such endeavors largely helped improve the perception of intermodal logistics among companies, develop expertise, and enhance intermodal practices.


The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 is one of the main policies aimed to promote intermodal logistics activities in the country by providing a framework for the development of “a National Intermodal System that shall consist of all forms of transportation in a unified, inter-connected manner” (Harn & Toshinori, 2005, p. 7). The major impacts of the given regulation included more flexible intermodal funding opportunities, as well as the creation of shared public-private investments; facilitated access to the market, and consequently increased competition among shippers, which also resulted in the reduction of transport-linked transaction costs.

Due to the government incentives to enhance transportation intermodality, many large logistics enterprises started to have special units for intermodal operations. However, the greater openness of the transportation market has also triggered the emergence of third-party shippers and carriers. The growth of third-party players in the market occurred “hand-in-hand with expansion of intermodalism” (European Commission Directorate-General VII & U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Intermodalism and Federal Highway Administration, 1998, p. 9). The emergence of such small companies helped eliminate multiple non-economic hindrances, which large corporations had when shifting towards intermodal logistics, e.g., unmanageable scale, and so on. In this way, it helped increase productivity in the intermodal transport sector.


In Europe and the USA, a few effective projects have been performed to support the promotion of intermodal logistics. Their major impacts included the increased accessibility to the market, lower transaction costs for businesses, shifts in the perception of intermodal transportation (i.e., it started to be associated with some customer values such as greater ecological sustainability due to the use of alternative transport modes). It is possible to say, that some more improvements in the intermodal operational management and processes are still required there. Greater openness to the competition may foster more innovative and creative solutions.


European Commission Directorate-General VII & U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Intermodalism and Federal Highway Administration. (1998). Toward improved intermodal freight transport in Europe and the United States: Next steps. Web.

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Harn, B. E., & Toshinori, N. (2005). Intermodal logistics policies in the EU, the U.S. and Japan. Web.

Reggiani, A., Cattaneo, S., Janic, M., & Nijkamp, P. (2000). Freight transport In Europe. Iatss Research, 24(1), 48-59.

Senior European Exports Group. (2013). The liberalisation of Europe’s railways. Web.

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