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Get Homework Help: A Sample Writing Guide

Sample Term Paper on Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal Transportation

This paper discusses intermodal transportation, the rationale for this model of transport, key challenges, and key factors that underlie the decision-making process in this model of transportation. The paper utilizes a review of literature and evidence from credible, relevant sources to achieve this objective. The key finding is that intermodal transportation contributes to the efficiency and convenience of transportation and the capacity of the logistics process to achieve competitiveness in business operations through the reduction of costs of transportation and contributions to shippers' responsibilities to conduct sustainable business. It minimizes transport costs, promotes the efficiency, convenience, and timeliness of delivery of materials to destinations in markets or within the production and supply chains of organizations, minimizes externalities such as resource wastage, noise and air pollution, and congestion on roads, and contributes to efforts to address climate change.

Intermodal transportation describes the moving of raw materials and products in containers, such that it is possible to move the materials and products by a variety of vehicles, including container ships, semi-trailer trucks, and trains, in a single trip. Containers with a design for intermodal freight allow the freight to remain inside during transfers between different modes of transportation, thereby preventing the need to transfer the freight to a container of a different size. In essence, intermodal transportation involves the combination of two or more modes of transport in a single chain of transportation, without a change of container for materials or products (Macharis et al. 167). The emergence of standardized containers for shipping has influenced significant advantages in the efficiency of transporting raw materials and products in the operations of shippers, enterprises, and economies.

Transportation is one of the essential components of the logistics processes in economies and the operations of enterprises. The needs to fulfill customers' and corporations' requirements for effectiveness and efficiency are essential targets for the management of the flow of raw materials and equipment, products, and other production materials between the points of production and consumption. Transportation has the essential role of influencing and determining the efficiency of the movement of materials, products, and information. It is the most important economic activity across and among the components of a logistics system in a business. Tseng et al. (1660) observe that transportation takes up between one and two-thirds (33-67%) of the expenses that enterprises incur in the logistics system. The processes of logistics and supply chain management cannot achieve their advantages in full without a well-developed and efficient system of transportation. The system of transportation makes goods and products movable, thereby supporting the efficacy of promoting value-added under the least-cost principle (Tseng et al. 1661). Owing to the central role of transportation in logistics, transport has the potential to affect the outcome of logistics activities, besides the aspects of production and sale. The overall quality and effectiveness of the logistics process are highly dependent on transportation to harness its advantages in full and promote the enterprise’s or economy’s competitiveness.

Based on the critical role of transportation in the wider logistics process, shippers face a complex problem relating to rising costs of transportation, the demand for quick product turnaround and delivery, and pressure to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the supply chain. The significance of these challenges promotes the appeal of intermodal transportation. As noted, intermodal transportation features a standardized design of shipping containers to enable the transfer of freight between different modes of transportation without the need to transfer the cargo to a container of a different size. Traditionally, competition between modes of transportation has produced segmented transportation systems. Each mode of transportation and the carriers that operate it have sought to increase market share and grow revenue by maximizing the haul under their control. Each mode of transport - rail, road, or sea – competes with the others. Each mode is commonly subject to different competition rules and regulatory regimes. Inter-modalism focuses on integrating separate transport systems to enable the movement of freight from the point of origin to a destination using several modes of transportation (Rodrigue and Slack para.1-2). Additionally, it enhances the economic performance of a chain of transport by supporting the use of different transportation modes in a productive way. It also enables shippers and supply chains to achieve efficiency and convenience in their efforts to transport raw materials and products across phases of production. As such, shippers could utilize rail for long-distance transport and transition conveniently to trucks for efficiency and flexibility advantages in local pickups and deliveries. In this way, intermodal transportation enables shippers to view trips of transportation of raw materials and products as a whole rather than as a series of separate phases requiring separate sets of rates and documentation. In this way, shippers make huge gains in efficiency, costs, and the convenience of transportation of freight.

A picture of a container and a container loaded on a truck chassis

The driver of intermodal transportation is the container, a large, standard size mental box into which shippers and freight handlers pack cargo for shipment aboard transport modes with special configurations. The design of containers enables common handling equipment at ports or terminals to transfer them between ships, railcars, and truck chassis with minimum labor and in economically large units (Rodrigue and Slack para.11-12). Moreover, the containers allow easy handling of cargo across modal systems. Containerization describes the increasing and generalized use of containers as load units for the transportation of cargo. The use of containers has enhanced complementarity between modes of transportation of freight by supporting higher fluidity in movement and standardization of loads. It has contributed significantly to the widespread adoption of intermodal transportation and wider changes in the transport sector. It has helped to reduce labor costs, handling time, and costs of packing and offloading between modes of transportation (Rodrigue and Slack para.12-13). The implication is that the use of containers has promoted improvements in the efficiency of transportation of freight in the supply chains of enterprises and economies and in the business of shippers. Therefore, containers have facilitated intermodal transport, hence strengthened the convenience, flexibility, and efficiency of transport of raw materials and products in the business activities of shippers.

Besides the use of containers and the improvement of handling technology, changes in public policy are another important factor in the development of intermodal transportation. Previously, public policy in the U.S. prevented companies from owning firms in other transportation modes or promoted monopoly control in particular transport modes, especially rail (Rodrigue and Slack para.1). These regulations influenced technical difficulties in the transfer of products and materials between modes, thereby promoting additional costs and delays at terminals. The U.S. undertook deregulation in the 1980s, thereby freeing firms from government control and monopolies. Companies were now free to own operations across modes, and shipping lines started integrating road and rail services for customers’ use (Rodrigue and Slack para.8). The new regulatory environment influenced seamless efficiency in the exploitation of the advantages in each transportation mode in firms' supply chains.

A critical advantage of intermodal transportation is the feature of providing a service with a single bill of lading. A bill of lading is a legal document that a carrier issues to a shipper acknowledging receipt of the cargo for shipment and accompanying the materials or products to the destination. Previously, the use of separate modes of transport featured the need to pay separate sets of rates and documentation for each mode, thereby causing inconveniences and high costs of transportation. Nonetheless, with one bill of lading, clients could now obtain one through rate across different modes of transport. Intermodal transport has also facilitated a revolution in the control of information and organizations. Modern inter-modalism features advanced processes of data handling and systems of processing and distribution to ensure safe, reliable, and cost-effective control of freight movements across various modes (Rodrigue and Slack para.11). This analysis demonstrates that intermodal transport has promoted high cost, efficiency, and convenience advantages for shippers.

The key factors in the decision-making process in the use of intermodal transportation concern logistical needs for efficiency, including reducing costs and promoting convenience and timeliness in the delivery of raw materials and products across the supply chain, and sustainability in business operations. Minimization of transport costs and promotion of the efficiency of the delivery of materials to destinations in markets or within the production and supply chains of organizations are essential considerations in the use of intermodal transportation. Intermodal transportation allows the transfer of freight across transport modes conveniently and cheaply while also ensuring the prompt and convenient reach of markets and different points across the production process. It enables shippers to exploit the advantages of each transportation mode and combine the advantages to maximize efficiency and convenience. Gocmen and Erol (2) note that rail transport is highly advantageous for transporting bulky materials and products over a long distance, while road transport is highly convenient for door-to-door deliveries and pick-ups of materials and products. The advantage of one through rate across transportation modes in intermodal transportation allows shippers to make huge gains in controlling the costs of transportation. These advantages enhance the strategic role of transport within the business of shippers and the supply chains of enterprises, thereby promoting the capacity of the logistics process to harness its strengths in full and promote the competitiveness of shipping business and firms.

As a factor in the decision-making to use intermodal transportation, sustainability relates to the responsibility of businesses to conduct business in ways that have a minimal adverse impact on the local society, environment, and economy. This responsibility requires the efforts of businesses to meet present needs without compromising future generations’ abilities to meet their own (Wells 181). Local communities have rights to the quality of resources in the environment and to the protection of these resources as a matter of their rights as members of the society. Macharis et al. (167) note that the advantage of economic efficiency is the use of intermodal transportation supports the concept of sustainability in the transport system through minimization of resource wastage, pollution, and congestion on roads. Intermodal transportation contributes to economic efficiency and sustainable business through its effect of lowering the externalities of transport. Externalities describe the changes in wellbeing that result from the performance of economic activities whose effects do not reflect in market prices (Macharis et al. 168). They involve the role of transportation in imposing additional costs on society without shippers bearing these costs directly. These externalities include air pollution, noise pollution, climate change, accidents, and congestion. The choice of intermodal transportation among shippers contributes to their performances of sustainable business obligations through the reduction of the occurrence of these externalities in the process of business performance.

The discussion illustrates that intermodal transportation has significant positive effects on the performances of the shipping business from the perspectives of lower costs of transportation, and enhanced capacity in the logistics process to harness its strengths and promote business competitiveness, and improvements in the sustainability of the shipping business. Intermodal transportation facilitates the transfer of cargo across different modes of transport without the need to transfer the cargo to a container of a different size. In this way, intermodal transportation contributes to the efficiency and convenience of transportation and the capacity of logistics management to achieve competitiveness in business operations. Besides minimizing transport costs, intermodal transportation promotes the efficiency, convenience, and timeliness of delivery of materials to markets and different points in the production and supply chains of organizations. It further minimizes externalities such as resource wastage, noise and air pollution, and congestion on roads and contributes to efforts to address climate change, thereby promoting the performances of shipping firms’ responsibilities to conduct sustainable business.

Works Cited

Gocmen, Elifcan, and Erol, Rizvan. “The Problem of Sustainable Intermodal Transportation: A Case Study of an International Logistics Company, Turkey.” Sustainability, vol. 10, 2018, pp.1-16.

Macharis, Cathy, Caris, An, Jourquin, Bart, and Pekin, Ethem. “A Decision Support Framework for Intermodal Transport Policy.” European Transport Research Review vol.3, 2011, pp.167-178.

Rodrigue, Jean-Paul, and Slack, Brian. Intermodal Transportation and Containerization. The Geography of Transportation Systems, 2020.

Tseng, Yung-Yu, Yue, Wen Long, and Taylor, Michael. “The Role of Transportation in Logistics Chain.” Proceedings of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies Vol. 5, 2005, pp. 1657 – 1672.

Wells, Geoffrey. Sustainable Business: Theory and Practice of Business under Sustainability Principles. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013.

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