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Multimodal Transportation Systems


Multimodal transportation system is the system of transportation of goods in which only one carrier is involved but there are more than one modes of transportation involved. In multimodal transportation the carrier uses the first mode of transport up to a certain level which it cannot go beyond then switches to the other mode of transportation (Atallah, 2005, p.1). In this process, a single documentation is required when transporting using the two modes of transport.

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Types of multimodal transportation

There are different types of multimodal transport systems but in this case we only look at some of the main and commonly used examples such as the land – sea- land. In this type, the cargo is first transported by trucks to the port where it is shipped into vessels to travel by sea. It is then collected at the destination port then transported by road to its final terminus. In the above example the road transported can be substituted with rail transport to make it rail-sea-rail (Atallah, 2005, p.3). This mode is mainly used where the cargo being transported is heavy or bulky.

Another form is the Road-air-road which is a steadily growing multimodal service across the continent. This combination is well known for its fast and timely delivery of goods. For goods being moved across countries that are far apart, this mode would be of great help. This mode is also widely used in transportation of perishable goods like flowers. Not only are the goods delivered in real time over long distances they are also fitted with special facilities to handle fragile and perishable goods. This mode also offers high levels of security for the goods in transit.

Sea-air-sea is another widely growing transport mode. This system is mainly used in transportation of highly valuable goods such as electronics and electrical products. It is also used in transportation of seasonal goods such as clothing.

Benefits to the retailer

There is only one carrier involved and the contract too is one. This helps the retailer to know that they are dealing with only one carrier. Incase of any problem with the consignment the carrier will be liable and will not have anyone to blame unlike if there were two carriers. This saves the retailer the headache of dealing with many different people. The retailer can also be compensated in the event of a loss during the transportation process. In addition to this, there are few legal formalities required as the retailer is only presented with documents from one carrier. This saves the problem of too many documentation and legal formalities which tend to be time consuming and expensive due to government bureaucracy.

Multimodal transport system is also financially friendly as it tries within its means to ensure that the goods reach the retailers’ final destination at the right time, in the right condition and using the least possible resources (Litman, 2009, p.5). The retailer is then able to maximize their profit by incurring minimal transport costs. This mode of transport ensures minimal time loss in delivery. This is because all the work of transportation is left in the hands of the carrier whose duty is to ensure that the goods get to the destination timely. This is achieved if the carrier put in place pre-planned strategies for trans-shipment which will help save time in interchanging the mode of transport. Without proper planning and coordination the cargo may overstay as it waits interchange. Thus proper planning reduces the risk of pilferage, damage, loss and even cargo mishandling at the warehouse.


Multimodal transport system is an effective transportation process in which the retailers are relieved of the burden of transportation of their goods. This operation has seen the growth of many international businesses as there is a safe, fast and reliable transport system within countries and continents.

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Reference List

Atallah, S. (2005). Overview of Trends in Multimodal Transport. Web.

Litman, T. (2009). Introduction to Multimodal Transportation Planning. Web.

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