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Exploring Multimodal Transportation: A Comprehensive Guide

sahil bajaj

Sahil Bajaj

Senior Specialist - Marketing @ Shiprocket

May 21, 2024

8 min read

The growth of international trade depends on an innovative and adaptable logistics sector. Modern and efficient shipping companies know how to leverage the strengths of different types of shipping methods. Can you guess how they do it? These companies use a multimodal transportation solution that transforms and strengthens supply chains and enhances business operations.

Shipping companies use a multimodal system to coordinate all modes of transport. This helps enhance connectivity, reduce transportation costs, eliminate congestion, and improve overall logistics.

Multimodal transportation improves supply chain efficiency by reducing downtime. This transportation solution also increases customer satisfaction by allowing goods to be transported to even the most remote areas.

Let’s understand the concept of complete streets and multimodal transportation in detail.

Multimodal Transportation

The Concept of Complete Streets

Complete streets is an approach that plans, designs, constructs, runs, and maintains streets in such a way that everyone who needs to use them may do so safely. Pedestrians, automobiles, transit riders, and cyclists of all ages and abilities can safely access the streets.

Complete streets increase connectivity using sidewalks, bike lanes, bus shelters, and other multimodal transport. 

Road Diet: A Solution for Safer and More Efficient Transportation

Road diet is one of the best strategies in transportation planning. It reconfigures an existing roadway by repurposing lanes devoted to vehicle traffic. This technique helps minimise the ‘crash points’ that are prone to accidents.

A road diet is a solution that focuses on reducing the number of cars on the road and ensuring calm traffic at more consistent speeds. It is often a low-cost alternative that increases traffic flow by reducing congestion. It includes on-street parking, turn lanes, bike lanes, and other traffic engineering options.

The Growing Need for Multimodal Solutions

Multimodal transportation refers to the use of at least two distinct modes of transportation during the movement of commodities from one location to another. It immensely impacts the supply chain and logistics. It does not rely on any single mode of transport, which ensures streamlined operations. This method leverages the strengths of multiple transportation methods to ensure on-time delivery

Main Modes of Multimodal Transportation

Multimodal transportation encompasses 4 transport modes:

1) Rail Transportation

Rail transportation is perfect for moving goods in bulk, such as grains, minerals, coal, etc., over long distances. The best part about this mode of transportation is that trains are not affected by traffic jams like trucks and are only delayed when there is a breakdown. Rail transport can also be used to carry heavy goods, such as machinery and vehicles.

2) Road Transportation

Road Transportation is a cost-effective method of transporting shipments over short distances. It is the most common and widely used transportation system, as the shipments do not require detailed documentation or paperwork. Moreover, getting the goods delivered via road may take time due to traffic.

3) Air Transportation

Air Transportation is the most reliable, fast, and expensive method of multimodal transportation. It offers a global reach and connects international boundaries. It is best for time-sensitive deliveries, perishable goods or expensive items.

4) Maritime Transportation

Maritime transportation is the backbone of the transportation industry and an ancient form of transportation system facilitating global trade. More than 80% of the volume of international trade is shipped via sea as it is cheaper than road and even rail transportation.

Examples of Successful Multimodal Transportation Systems

The multimodal transportation system includes public transportation and all other forms of transport. This model supports the needs of all users, from pedestrians to bicyclists or motorists.

Listed below are some real-life examples that showcase the successful implementation of multimodal transportation systems:

1) Amazon’s Global Network

Multimodal transportation visibility solutions provide a single and unified view of shipment ETAs and accurately predict in-transit conditions so that manufacturers can make informed decisions.

The largest online retailer, Amazon, used air, road, and rail transport in its massive logistics network. Their logistics network is attributed to its well-coordinated multimodal transportation system.

2) IKEA’s Supply Chain

The Swedish furniture giant IKEA also uses all modes of transport to deliver products from manufacturers to stores worldwide within the stipulated time. The company optimally utilises container spaces by ensuring flat-pack designs. When the goods reach the destination port, they are further sent to regional warehouses and stores through trucks or rails.

Advantages of Multimodal Transportation

Multimodal transportation offers several benefits. Some of the significant ones are-

1) Increases Flexibility

Multimodal transportation increases flexibility for logistics businesses. It enables them to adapt to changing circumstances, such as disruptions in particular transportation routes, fluctuations in demand and catering to the specific requirements of different markets.

2) Improves Reliability

This transportation system averts risks and uncertainties as it does not rely on a single mode of transport. For instance, if road transport experiences unexpected delays or road closures, the ability to switch to rail or water transport enhances the reliability and resilience of its operations.

3) Communication

Multimodal transportation ensures seamless communication across different carriers and services. It also ensures that all transport chain segments know schedules, changes, or delays for efficient transitions.

4) Accessibility

Multimodal transportation synchronises different transport modes to reach even the most remote areas. Thus, businesses can ensure that their products will reach their destination even in areas that are not accessible by certain transport vehicles.

5) Deadlines

As multimodal transportation does not rely on a single transport system, meeting deadlines becomes more achievable. Even in scenarios of unforeseen delays, alternative transport modes can be used to uphold the end-user’s demands.

6) Cost Optimisation

Implementing multimodal transportation systems is the best way to reduce transportation costs. This can be done by using standardised containers and selecting the most cost-effective mode of transport for each leg of the journey. This can help businesses contribute to economies of scale and reduce handling costs.

7) Reduces Environmental Impact

Multimodal transportation aligns with sustainability goals. It reduces carbon emissions and fuel consumption by shifting transportation activities from road to water or rail. Ships or trains leave a much lower carbon footprint than trucks.

8) Improves Inventory Management

It contributes to better inventory management practices by reducing inventory holding costs and improving inventory turnover. Optimising transportation routes and choosing the most efficient modes improves accuracy and visibility in tracking and managing inventory.

Disadvantages of Multimodal Transportation

While multimodal transportation offers various benefits, it has a few limitations too, such as:

1) Regulatory Challenge

The intricate web of regulatory compliance broadens the layer of complexities to logistics and can increase compliance-related costs.

2) Complex Warehouse Logistics

Multimodal transportation requires meticulous planning and strategic resource allocation. Sometimes, the high complexity involved in organising multifaceted logistics operations does not yield the desired outcomes.

3) Increased Need for Coordination

Utilising multiple transportation modes and handling procedures involves orchestrating multiple stakeholders, making seamless communication and coordination indispensable. However, supply chain companies sometimes need more coordination, which introduces the potential for delays.

4) Poor Ability to Track Shipments

Shipment tracking becomes difficult as the transportation mode keeps changing or switching, creating uncertainty to track the exact location of the cargo. However, integrated logistics platforms and digitisation operations helped streamline these processes.

5) Extensive Paperwork

Administrative tasks in intermodal transportation are increased because of the different modes and carriers involved. As a result, paperwork can pile up, from multiple billing documents to other insurance requirements.

6) Supply Chain Disruptions

Dependency on multiple modes of transport can lead to potential disruptions, especially if any of your chosen modes experience delays. If one mode experiences unexpected delays, it can have a ripple effect on the other modes to be used in shipment.

Best Practices for Implementing Multimodal Transportation

It is recommended to follow these practices to lessen the potential pitfalls:

1) Flexibility

In unprecedented delays or closures, stay agile and flexible to make quick decisions.

2) Planning Ahead

You must be ready for uncertainties, as there could be any kind of complexity when sending goods to a different place via rail, road, air, or water. So, proper routes, schedules, and contingency plans in detail are vital.

3) Technology Deployment

Integrating different modes of transportation and leveraging advanced technology enables businesses to optimise their supply chains. Thus, it is advisable to use the updated tracking systems for seamless communication and real-time updates.

4) Build Trust

Build strong relationships to ensure a smooth transition between different transportation modes.

5) Understand Regulations

Remember, regulations differ for all modes of transportation. Familiarise yourself with all the terms and conditions to avoid compliance issues.

Multimodal Transportation’s Impact on Supply Chain and Logistics

The multimodal transportation model involves coordinating and using two or more different transport modes in a single transport contract. This method improves connectivity, lessens transportation costs, and minimises environmental impact.

Multimodal transportation offers many benefits, but its effectiveness depends on the city’s transportation infrastructure and the availability of different modes of transportation.

Facilitating International Trade with CragoX

International trade contributes to global efficiency. India’s economic welfare has grown significantly in the past two decades as it has boosted international trade.

India’s position as a global trade hub necessitates seamless logistics solutions. Shiprocket CargoX resonates with this fact and facilitates international B2B shipments. This excellent shipping service allows your shipments to move with efficiency. 

CargoX plans your cargo delivery schedule so that it reaches the destination on or before the expected time. You can also choose the shipping plan that suits your budget and requirements. 


Multimodal transportation connects all parts of the world, whether inland destinations or remote areas. The integration of road, railway, air, and marine transportation ensures a smooth flow of goods and expedites the export and import process. It means you can simplify the complexities of international air cargo shipping and reach your global consumers anywhere.

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