Freight transport is an essential component of global trade, and companies are increasingly looking for more efficient and cost-effective ways to move their products through the various transportation networks.

In this context, the terms“intermodal transport” and“multimodal transport” are common, and although both involve the use of different modes of transport, there are significant differences between them.

In this article, we will explore in detail the concept of intermodal transportation, its types, advantages and differences with multimodal transportation. If you want to learn more about this efficient way of moving goods, read on.


What is intermodal transport?

Intermodal transport refers to the movement of goods using at least two different modes of transport, such as trucks, ships, railroads and airplanes, without the need to handle the cargo in transit.

Through intermodal transport it is possible to transport all the goods in a single container called Intermodal Transport Units (ITU).

Intermodal transport combines the flexibility and capacity of different modes of transport, enabling logistics providers to offer more efficient and cost-effective transport solutions to their customers.

In summary, intermodal transport is a form of transportation that offers greater efficiency and flexibility in the movement of goods.


Types of intermodal transport

We can find different types of intermodal transportation, some of the most common examples are:

Road and rail transportation. A transport that uses road trucks and freight trains. The goods are in containers or boxes.

Road and maritime transportation. Trucks are usually transported inside ships. Containers can also be unloaded from one transport to another.

Rail and maritime. Combination of rail and maritime transport, trains arrive at ports and goods are loaded on to ships for transport.


Related content


Advantages of intermodal transport

Intermodal transportation has certain advantages that help carriers improve the efficiency of the entire transportation process:



Intermodal transportation offers the flexibility of using different modes of transport to move goods, allowing companies to adapt to the specific needs of each shipment.



Intermodal transport is more efficient than conventional transport, as it uses the combination of modes of transport best suited to each period of the shipment, reducing costs and delivery times.


Lower cost

Intermodal transport can offer considerable cost savings depending on the length of the journey. The greater the distance, the greater the savings. Savings can range from 10% to 40% in fuel costs or goods handling costs.



Intermodal transport is more sustainable than conventional transport, as it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental impact associated with freight transport.



Intermodal transport connects different modes of transportation and enables more effective integration of the supply chain, which can improve efficiency and reduce costs.


Differences with multimodal transport

These two types of transportation are often confused and generate doubts about their true meaning and differences.

The main difference between intermodal and multimodal transport is that the latter does not use the same unit load, which is the case in intermodal transport.

Another important difference is that in intermodal transport, each transport provider issues its own liability contract, while in multimodal transport, everything is unified in a single document.

There is no doubt that both types of transportation are two efficient alternatives to improve companies’ freight forwarding strategies.


How are modes of transport selected in an intermodal/multimodal solution?

The selection of transportation modes in an intermodal or multimodal solution is a carefully orchestrated process that seeks to optimize efficiency, reduce costs and minimize environmental impact, while ensuring the safety and integrity of the cargo.

This process is based on a combination of detailed analysis and logistics expertise, considering the following key factors:


Nature of the cargo: The type, size, and specific requirements of the cargo are decisive. For example, perishable goods may require refrigerated transport, while high-value goods may need additional security measures.

Distance and destination: Total distance and final destination influence the choice of transport modes. For long distances, sea and rail transport are often preferred for their cost efficiency, while air transport may be the best option for quick deliveries or for destinations that are difficult to access.

Associated costs: We always look for the most cost-effective option for our customers, balancing between the direct cost of transportation and indirect costs, such as waiting times or storage costs.

Delivery time: Time is a critical factor, especially for time-sensitive goods. We combine different modes of transportation to meet delivery time requirements without compromising efficiency.

Sustainability: In line with our commitment to sustainability, we evaluate how each transportation option affects the environment, prioritizing those that offer a lower carbon footprint.

Regulations and restrictions: Local and international regulations, as well as mode-specific restrictions, are carefully reviewed to ensure compliance throughout the supply chain.


At Across Logistics, we use advanced technology and our extensive network of logistics partners to analyze these factors and design customized intermodal and multimodal transportation solutions. Our goal is to provide each customer with a logistics solution that not only meets their expectations in terms of time and cost, but also supports their sustainability and operational efficiency objectives.


Is intermodal/multimodal transport more sustainable than other transport methods? Why?

At Across Logistics, we are committed to promoting sustainable transportation practices and aware of the environmental impact of the logistics industry.

Intermodal and multimodal transportation represents one of the most effective strategies for improving sustainability in freight transportation, for several key reasons:


Resource optimization: By combining different modes of transport, the specific advantages of each one are exploited, such as the greater loading capacity of ships and trains compared to road transport. This results in a more efficient use of resources and a reduction in the total number of trips required to move the same amount of goods.

Reduction of CO2 emissions: Maritime and rail transport, pillars of intermodalism, emit significantly less CO2 per tonne transported compared to road transport. By prioritizing these modes of transport whenever possible, intermodal and multimodal transport contributes to a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

Reduced road congestion: Reducing reliance on road transport reduces road congestion, which in turn reduces fuel consumption and pollutant emissions. This not only benefits the environment, but also improves the overall efficiency of the transportation network.

Innovation and technology: The intermodal and multimodal transportation sector is at the forefront in the adoption of clean technologies and innovative solutions, such as more energy-efficient vehicles and containers, advanced logistics management systems and the use of cleaner alternative fuels..

Promoting the circular economy: By facilitating more efficient and sustainable logistics, intermodal and multimodal transport supports the principles of the circular economy, helping companies to reduce their carbon footprint and promote a more regenerative economic model.


In short, intermodal and multimodal transport not only offers tangible benefits in terms of efficiency and costs, but also plays a crucial role in reducing the environmental impact of freight transport. At Across Logistics, we are proud to lead the way to a more sustainable future by implementing transportation solutions that care for our planet.


How does the use of intermodal/multimodal transportation affect delivery times?

One of the main concerns when selecting a transportation method is how it will influence delivery times. At Across Logistics, we understand that efficiency and timeliness are crucial to our customers’ success.

Intermodal and multimodal transportation, by integrating different modes of transport, offers a versatile and efficient solution that positively impacts delivery times in several ways:


Route optimization: Combining transportation modes allows for more flexible route planning and optimization. By selecting the fastest or most direct mode for each segment of the journey, we can reduce transit times and offer competitive delivery times, even on complex or long-distance routes.

Reduction of waiting times: Intermodal and multimodal transport minimizes waiting times associated with the transfer of goods between different modes of transport. By using standardized containers that can be easily moved between trucks, trains and ships, we streamline operations and keep cargo moving.

Increased reliability: By leveraging the inherent reliability of transportation modes such as rail and sea, which are less susceptible to delays due to traffic congestion or adverse weather conditions, intermodal and multimodal transportation can offer more consistent and predictable delivery times.

Advanced planning: The integration of advanced tracking and planning technologies allows us to anticipate and mitigate potential delays, adjusting routes or modes of transport in real time to ensure on-time delivery.

Meeting specific delivery windows: For cargoes with tight delivery requirements, intermodal and multimodal transport offers the flexibility to meet specific delivery windows, efficiently combining the speed of air transport with the economy of ocean or rail transport, as needed.


How is security and cargo tracking handled in intermodal/multimodal transportation?

At Across Logistics, security and cargo tracking are priorities, especially when it comes to intermodal and multimodal transportation solutions involving multiple modes of transport and often multiple jurisdictions.

We implement a comprehensive approach to ensure that each shipment reaches its destination not only efficiently and on time, but also safely and smoothly.

Here we detail how we address these critical issues:


Advanced tracking technology: We use state-of-the-art tracking and logistics management systems that provide real-time visibility of cargo at all times, allowing our customers and our operations team to follow the progress of the shipment from its origin to its final destination.

Safe and adapted containers: Depending on the type of goods, we use specialized containers that ensure the integrity of the cargo. This includes refrigerated containers for perishable goods, sealed containers for high-value goods, and specific equipment for hazardous cargo, all designed to protect cargo during transport and transfers between modes.

Stringent safety protocols: At every stage of the transportation process, we apply strict safety protocols that comply with international and local regulations. This includes regular inspection and maintenance of equipment, ongoing training of our staff and partners in security best practices, and implementation of physical and cyber security measures to protect information and cargo.

Coordination with trusted partners: We work exclusively with logistics partners who share our commitment to safety and operational excellence. This ensures that all aspects of intermodal and multimodal transportation, from cargo handling to temporary storage, are carried out to the highest safety standards.

Proactive risk management: Our logistics team performs risk assessments for each shipment, identifying and mitigating potential vulnerabilities in the supply chain. This includes alternative route planning and contingency preparedness, ensuring that we can respond quickly to any unforeseen event without compromising cargo security.


Across Logistics, your reliable transport and logistics company.

If you need a reliable logistics partner for the transport of goods, Across Logistics is the right partner for you. Across Logistics we are experts in logistics solutions that meet the most stringent demands in terms of time, cost and sustainability.

We have a wide network of suppliers and collaborators worldwide, which allows us to offer customized solutions adapted to the needs of each client.

At Across Logistics, we believe in the importance of building strong and lasting relationships with our customers, based on trust and satisfaction. If you are looking for a reliable logistics partner to handle your shipments, don’t hesitate to contact us at.