Intermodal transportation is one of the fundamental theoretical and practical problems of contemporary logistics in the transportation industry. According to Bertazzi et al., (2009) intermodal transportation may be “broadly defined” (p. 55) as “the transportation of people or freight from their origin to their destination by a sequence of at least two transportation modes.” (p. 55) Intermodal transportation therefore tries to combine existing transportation modes in order to produce the most efficient logistical solution.
Intermodal transporation therefore is significant because it seems at first glance to simplify the problems of logistics: namely, with the availability of different forms of transformation, a combination of forms of transformation becomes a means with which to produce more sufficient logistical models than if only one form of transportation is available. Intermodal transportation namely multiplies logistical possibility, offering alternative solutions to existing problems.
On the other hand, however, intermodal transportation represents a more complex form of logistics precisely because there are more factors involved in the initial logistical problem. In the case of a single mode of transportation, the decision making process is more basic, for example, deciding which mode of transportation to use, or which route for transportation to use. In the case of intermodal transportation, these two separate threads are combined into one, thus increasing complexity.
Accordingly, this may be called the paradox of intermodal transportation: from one perspective, it increases options in logistical planning, on the other hand, this increase in operations makes the logistical planning itself more manifold. Nevertheless, this at the same time emphasizes the importance on the study of intermodal transportation and logistics in general, so that the options available do not overwhelm the logistical planner, but provides a greater opportunity for efficiency.
Bertuzzi, L. et al. (2009). Innovations in Distribution Logistics. Berlin: Springer.