Intermodal transportation

Intermodal transportation

Also known as

What is intermodal transportation?

transport refers to freight moving from a point A to a point B using several means of transport. Each of these means of transport is associated with a unique supplier and thus individual contracts. Several transporters join forces in completing this task within a same itinerary, yet using different transport methods: train, plane, truck and barge for instance.

This type of transport offers a combination of transport solutions: air (plane), land (truck or train), waterways (barge and boat) and sea (cargo). The group of partners are committed to transporting the goods from a point A to a point B.

Transporters (trucks) are entrusted with collecting the goods from the manufacturer or industrial company, and delivering them to the end customer. The will provide customers with preferential transport methods for long distances - such as trains, planes or boats. Then, a truck will finish conveying the goods from the port or station to the final destination.

rail-road transport is a solution that meets the current concern for ever more Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This solution acts most positively on the environment, by using rail transport for long distances, as boats and planes are major sources of pollution.

Specificities of intermodal transportation: the 4 pillars

  • Several means of transport

  • Several suppliers

  • Several transport contracts

  • Several people in charge of transport

Examples and practical applications

The stages of intermodal transportation


Cargo is taken on in Paris, set to be delivered to the port in Le Havre (France) by truck. It will then be loaded onto a boat in a container, ready for to Cape Town in South Africa. This whole procedure is supervised by several service providers, who obey the orders given by several transporters.

Once in Cape Town, the end customer orders their service provider (who is in fact an stakeholder) to load the goods onto a train and send them to Johannesburg, where a road transporter will drive them to a warehouse in a nearby town.

In this example, the seller and buyer concluded individual contracts with different companies. The transporters issued several different combined transport bills of lading. As such, the entire transport service by truck, boat, train and second truck fit the notion of transport. The land transport mentioned is most of the time also subcontracted by the customer.

Regulatory cornerstones of intermodal transportation

Road transport (mandatory documents):

  • waybill: this document confirms the existence of an international road transport contract. It details the entire service, such as the type of goods transported, their origin, their destination, who is transporting them, who sent them and who will be receiving them. It is a slip used by the loader, certifying that they delivered the goods to the transporter;

  • ADR document required for all dangerous goods: in addition to similar indications as in the waybill, this document specifies the UN classification for all products listed, as well as their transport and handling rules.

Air transport (mandatory documents):

  • The air waybill (AWB): similar to the waybill;

  • The commercial invoice, serving as proof of sale;

  • The , that describes the contents of a parcel and completes the information provided in the invoice;

  • The clearance authorization, in which the importer or exporter authorizes to present a on their behalf.

Maritime transport

  • Maritime trade law

  • Article L.5000-1 of the French Transport Code

  • United Nations Convention on the maritime of goods, known as the Hamburg Rules

Additional regulatory cornerstones

  • Article 23 of the UCP 600 which replaced the UCP 500

  • Article 3.3 of the Brussels convention dated 25 August 1924