What Is Multimodal Transportation?

Multimodal transport is often also called combined transport, which makes its meaning rather self-explanatory. Multimodal transport refers to the movement of cargo using at least two different modes of transportation, while under a single contract. And although multiple modes of transport are involved (sea, air, or land), the carrier is legally responsible for the entire freight journey. The carriers involved are called multimodal transport operators or providers. 

The other method of transportation that is often compared to multimodal transport is intermodal transport. Learn more about multimodal transport and how it differs from intermodal transport here: Intermodal vs Multimodal Transport Explained.

What Are the Benefits of Multimodal Shipping? 

  1. Clear Communication 
    1. As mentioned above, multimodal shipping places the legal responsibility of the entire freight journey on the carrier. This opens the opportunity for better communication, since talking to just one carrier provider is much easier than contacting multiple carrier companies. This creates a much smoother shipping process since there is only one BOL, and only one point of contact. 
  2. Time Efficient 
    1. Multimodal transportation uses shipping containers that can easily move between transportation devices. This leads to shorter transit times since the pickup and drop-off process is sped up. Multimodal shipping also completely removes the handling process that is needed when it’s time for a switch in a carrier company. So by giving one company complete control over the entire freight shipping journey, delivery delays can be minimized.  
  3. Cost-Effective 
    1. Transportation costs are often lower than intermodal transport, and in general, multimodal transport offers decreased freight rates, and lower cargo insurance. Furthermore, since it’s easier to track the shipment stage with only one point of contact, multimodal transport also reduces costs by allowing shippers to spend less money on monitoring goods through the shipping process. 

What Are Some Challenges of Multimodal Transport?

  1. Common Inspections 
    1. Multimodal transport terminals often undergo safety inspections. With high requirements to ensure security and safety, authorities will commonly head over to multimodal shipping terminals to inspect them. This limits operations and causes delays. 
  2. Legal Limitations 
    1. When it comes to international shipping, there’s a whole other host of problems that may arise with the use of multimodal transport. The contents of the shipping container may run into legal and operational issues depending on the country that the merchandise is being shipped to. 

Is Multimodal Shipping For You? 

There are advantages and disadvantages to multimodal shipping, and just like any other shipping process, the decision should be based on the services you need and what you prioritize. Multimodal transport provides an overall smoother shipping process for the shipper, but if you’re unlucky, you might end up coincidentally contacting a multimodal transport operator when a terminal inspection is taking place. 

But if you need any assistance regarding freight forwarding, you can always contact SFI and we’ll take care of your shipping needs. We have professionals ready to help resolve any shipping problems you may have. Email us at info@sfi.com or call us at (909) 594-3400.