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International Forwarding Association Blog » International freight services » Pros and Cons of Different Modes of Transport

Pros and Cons of Different Modes of Transport

There is a variety of ways to manage the flow of goods and ship cargo from place of origin to a distribution center or point of consumption. The choice of shipping method depends on the type, dimensions, and requirements of cargo to be moved, whether supplies, equipment, raw materials, and goods. Shipping is a complex process that involves a number of steps, from packaging and loading, to shipping, warehousing, and securely managing data.

Historically, European logistics providers used one mode of transportation, be it shipping containers by sea or moving goods by trucks. With time, the demand for intermodal freight and new shipping methods reshaped the industry, facilitating collaboration and partnerships between stakeholders and various sectors. Today, forwarders use a variety of shipping methods such as less than truckload, full truckload, flatbed shipping, and intermodal.


Less than Truckload

This mode of transport is typically used by multiple parties that share a common truck space. Multi-temp, dual-dump, and refrigerated trucks are increasingly used for LTL shipping. In general, less than truckload takes longer but is more cost-effective.


Full Truckload

With full truckload shipping, forwarders use a fleet of trucks or an entire vehicle to move cargo. Goods are loaded from place of origin and shipped long distances. The main advantage of FTL transport is that the whole shipment is moved by a single truck, significantly improving delivery times and speeds. It is a steady means of shipping which is why it is commonly used for perishable goods. Refrigerated transport as well as multi-temp and dual-temp vehicles are often used. As FTL transport is more expensive but faster, it is the preferred means of big retail chains.


Flatbed Shipping

With this mode of transport, goods are typically shipped on a no-roof trailer without a top enclosure. It is ideal for shipping containers or oversized cargo that will not fit into a standard truck. Typically, flatbed shipping is the preferred choice for freight that cannot be transported by other means due to its dimensions or size.


Intermodal Transport

Intermodal transport involves shipping large-sized cargo by means of two or more modes of transportation, with each carrier issuing a contract. The main modes supporting intermodal shipping include maritime, barges, rail, and trucking. Air transport is typically used with trucking but not with other modes.

Whether intermodal transport is used depends on factors such as frequency of shipments and the value of freight. This mode works well when cargo is in similar quantities or the flow needs to be continuous. Additionally, it is a good option for intermediate value shipments but not for low- and high-value freight. Low-value cargo is typically moved by maritime or rail transport while high-value freight is mainly shipped by air.

There are a number of benefits to using intermodal transport, including consistent capacity, cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and convenience. On the downside, intermodal shipping involves multiple modes of transit and disruption at one stage can affect the entire process.