What Is a Multimodal Transport?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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Multimodal transport is a term used to describe a shipment and delivery strategy that involves the use of two or more different modes of transportation. A strategy of this type may involve a combination of methods that includes the use various shipment options that fall into the broad categories of air, sea, rail, and road transportation. As long as at least two of these modes of transport are used, the movement can be considered multimodal in nature.

A simple example of a multimodal transport would involve the shipping of a customer order that leaves the warehouse by way of a truck. The truck then travels a designated route to a railway, where the goods are unloaded and placed into a railroad car. The rail service is used to transport the goods to an airport, where they are then loaded onto a cargo plane. Upon reaching an airport near the destination, the goods are once again loaded onto a delivery truck, which uses a road system to complete the final leg of the delivery route.


There are some advantages of multimodal transport in both domestic and international scenarios that make the strategy appealing. In some cases, combining two or more modes of transport can save a great deal of time in terms of the delivery of goods. For example, using road transportation to move goods to an airport for shipment, the flying the goods to a destination will often mean the ability to deliver those goods in a matter of hours rather than days. Customers who need those goods sooner rather than later will often pay more for the inclusion of air services in the mix, allowing the shipper to earn more from the transaction.

At other times, the use of multimodal transport can be used to decrease shipping costs. This is particularly true when the recipient can afford to wait for the delivery for an extended period of time. This means that even though the delivery point may be overseas, the shipper can make use of ocean-bound shippers and sealed shipping containers rather than the greater cost of moving the goods by air. At both ends of the process, road or rail services may be added to the mix, completing the delivery with the most cost-efficient combination possible.

Multimodal transport can be used efficiently in a number of scenarios and to manage the successful delivery of a wide range of goods. When placing orders, customers should make it a point to ask about various options available with the shipment and determine if a given combination of options would in fact result in a lower shipping cost. Assuming that a given combination would allow the goods to be delivered in a time frame acceptable to the customer, combining rail, air, sea and road travel may be a good idea.


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