Intermodal: learn about this type of logistical operation

  • 06/06/2023
  • 5 minutes

The globalised world demands more speed, efficiency and sustainability. With that in mind, logistics offers different solutions. Intermodality is one of them.

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However, have you ever stopped to think about what it is and how intermodal operations happen? In this article we explain in detail what it is, its advantages and main characteristics of intermodality in logistics. Good reading!

What is intermodal transportation?

Before talking about intermodal transport, we need to clarify that transportation modes are nothing more than the means of transportation used to transport cargo. The main ones are:

  • Road transport – performed by motor vehicles
  • Air transport – performed by aircrafts
  • Rail transport – performed by trains
  • Waterway transport – performed by ships
  • Pipeline transport – performed using pipelines

Intermodality consists of logistical operations in which two or more different transportation modes are used in the same structure. For example, goods can be transported first by truck and then by ship to its final destination.

Regardless of the modes chosen, a striking feature of intermodality is that each segment is the responsibility of a different logistics operator, thus requiring separate contracts. This point is what differentiates intermodality from multimodality, as we discussed here.

But what are the most used transportation modes in Brazil? Keep reading and find out!

Brazilian transportation matrix

Brazil, due to its continental size, represents both a challenge and an opportunity for logistics.

Concerning participation, according to data from National Transportation Confederation (CNT), road transport has the largest share in the sector, accounting for 60% of loads, followed by rail with 21% and waterway with 14%.

Still on the national transportation matrix, a survey carried out by Fundação Dom Cabral points out that the road network corresponds to an outflow of 75% of our production followed by the waterway transport, which represents approximately 9%.

Such data demonstrates a strong dependence on a single logistical mode. Discover the benefits of combining transportation modes below.

Advantages of intermodal transportation

The main advantage of intermodality is the possibility of enjoying the best of each mode without necessarily giving up one or the other.

Therefore, each company can choose the most advantageous option for each trip according to delivery speed and sustainability. For example, when comparing cabotage with road transport, it is possible to notice that maritime solutions are less polluting than road solutions, which are still the main form of transportation in Brazil today.

To sum up, intermodality advantages are:

  • integration between transportation modes;
  • increased competition;
  • reduced operating costs;
  • reduced delivery time;
  • reduced emission of polluting gases.