Intermodal transport

History and competition have tended to produce segmented and non-integrated transport systems. Each form of transport, particularly operators have tried to exploit their own advantages in terms of cost, service, reliability and safety. Operators try to retain business and increase revenues by maximizing the line traffic under their control.

Intermodal transport

Related topics

Sustainable mobility, air transport, rail transport, maritime transport, multimodal transport

What is intermodal transport?

Intermodal transport is the movement of loading units through a combination of means. This transfer between transport methods takes place without the need for opening, minimizing cargo handling.

Characteristics of intermodal transport

Among the main characteristics of intermodal transport, we can mention the following:

History of intermodal transport

Intermodal transport existed before the Second World War. Between 1870 and 1950, an excellent rail network was built, and extensive use was made of waterways. Until the 1960s, rail and water transport accounted for a high percentage of the total, during which time the purest intermodal transport was practiced. This happened because there were not enough roads to transport goods. But as happened in many parts of the world, there was a breakthrough in road transport from the 50s and gradually, it was absorbing most of the traffic. Today it is considered that more than 90% of transport is done by truck.

In the seventies and eighties, intermodal transport could not be carried out efficiently almost anywhere in the world, because there were many operational problems. In the past, there was a lot of handling, high costs and risks of breakdowns. Storage was almost always required, but the total costs of road transport, including infrastructure, were very high. This happened in many countries of the world and although it seems obvious, it can be said that it went almost unnoticed, until around the middle of the 50’s, an American truck driver, Malcolm McLean, started with the idea of intermodal transport.


Advantages of intermodal transport

Among the advantages we can mention the following:



Intermodal transport is important mainly for commerce as it combines a number of ways of carrying loads more efficiently, making goods move from one place to another by sea, land or air. Thanks to the enormous amount of new technology, trade benefits by accelerating and increasing the transport of its cargoes.


Some examples of companies that work with this type of transport are:

Written by Gabriela Briceño V.

How to cite this article?

Briceño V., Gabriela. (2019). Intermodal transport. Recovered on 23 February, 2024, de Euston96:

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