Multimodal transport

Multimodal transport

Also known as combined transport

What is multimodal transport?

In the field of freight, is defined as the use of several means of transport to convey goods to their final destination. These can be land or maritime means. The goal is to reduce transit costs and delivery lead times. This requires rigorous and carefully-thought-out logistics, for transport over short or long distances.

The principle of can apply to a local scale. However, the concept’s entire aim lies in making the most of various worldwide resources. It therefore helps boost reactivity and flexibility. This choice has proven essential in bolstering activity development. Opting for this solution can namely motivate a desire to reach out to new promising markets.

must not be confused with transport. The principle is the same, as they both use at least two means of delivery. However, the variant specifies that the loading unit cannot be changed. A container, for instance. can potentially transfer freight. We talk about plurimodal transport when passenger transit is involved.

Specificities of multimodal transport: 5 key assets

In addition to optimizing conveyance costs, boasts five key assets:

  • Reducing CO² emission;

  • Seamless conveyance throughout the ;

  • Larger loading capacity than for single-mode transport;

  • Improved and vastly simplified implementation of freight security measures;

  • Compliance with set delivery deadlines.

To achieve set objectives, transporters usually fill up standardized loading units such as containers. Moreover, it is easier to adapt the methods used thanks to technological innovations. The latter allow for real-time monitoring, and optimize communication between the various stakeholders.

Examples and practical applications

performance is governed by a transport contract. An operator is recommended to carry out the various handling and transfer operations. They must show expertise in subcontracting, in standardizing delivery and in coordinating the supply chain’s various flows. As such, they are known as an infrastructure manager, transport commissioner or even platform operator. Their name changes according to the transport method, but their tasks remain fairly similar according to their functions and responsibilities.

The following stages outline the main steps towards implementing :

  • Feasibility study pertaining to the chartered volume, resources available and journey;

  • Cost and transport optimization, looking at various journey options;

  • Choice of operator and transporters;

  • Transit completion once the transport conditions have been contractually accepted.

Multimodal transport in figures

In France, essentially affects road traffic. The amount of goods circulating on French roads has an estimated weight of about 329 billion tons, i.e. 88% of the multimodal market. Rail transport generates about 10% of transit, whereas waterways transport about 2% of French flows. This being said, waterways are an alternative that offers substantial potential, as one waterway convoy is equivalent to 4 trains or 220 trucks.


On a European scale, the multimodal breakdown is as follows:

  • 6% for waterway freight;

  • 77% for road traffic;

  • 17% of rail transport.

Regulatory cornerstones

  • Transport Code

  • Conventions and regulations pertaining to international trade

  • regulations relating to import-export