What is Combined Transport: Benefits and Risks in Logistics

The logistics industry has been trying to find ways to navigate challenges in the transportation market, such as truckers shortage, fuel prices, and capacity isues. Among the possible answers to these problems, one topic is common: combined transport.

But what is combined transport? How is it similar or different from Intermodal and Multimodal Transport?

CT and the intermodal transport are some of the most discussed subjects in logistics nowadays, and there’s a reason for it: if done right, it can become the solution needed for the future of sustainable and scalable transport. But it’s also important to understand that without the expertise and technology, it can complicate the work of freight forwarders and shippers.

Before diving into the solution, let’s talk more about the concept, benefits, and risks:

What is Combined Transport (CT)?

Combined transport is the mode of freight transport that combines different types of transport in the same shipment, aiming for optimized door-to-door transportation. By moving the loading unit (containers) from one mode of transport to the other (truck, rail, and ship), this transport system tries to take the best out of every transportation method. For example: combining rail's security with trucking's flexibility.

It’s known as a sub-form of intermodal transportation since those modes have the same goal: cover the shortest (the first and last legs of the journey) distances using trucks and most of the journey (the main leg) using trains or inland waterway ships.

Using rail as the main medium of transportation of goods from Germany to Italy is a great example of combined transport. The goods are delivered via truck to a terminal in Hamburg and then transported by rail to Milan. From there, the container is transferred to a truck for the final leg of the journey to its destination in Rome.

This is intermodal transport, utilizing multiple modes of transportation to move the goods efficiently and cost-effectively. But, it’s also combined transport.

Intermodal and Combined Transport diagram

What are the benefits of Combined Transport?

  • Carry 10% more than maximum weight: Trucks can carry 4 tons more than road-only transport – a total of 44 tons. So you get a free trip for every 10 trips made;
  • 80% fewer CO2 emissions: Rail is the most sustainable mode of transportation within the traditional ones: it can reduce carbon emissions by 80%, with the possibility of getting to 90% when it comes to longer distances that can have railway as the main transport method;
  • Exempt from bans: Vehicles used during the first and last leg of combined transportation are exempted from driving bans on Sundays and public holidays. The truck can’t be more than 200 km from the station and 150 km from the port;
  • Cost savings on long distances: Yes, combined transport already saves vehicle tax (as the journeys are completed under 150km), truck toll, and fuel consumption. But when the distance is more than 600 km, combined transport is even more cost-efficient - compared to any other form of transportation and including external costs;
  • High transportation security: Trains and ships have the highest security compared to other means of transportation - using them for the main leg of the delivery allows you to worry less about security;
  • More efficient use of staff and vehicle capacities: By combing transport and not depending fully on trucks, the available personnel and road vehicles can be used for other purposes. This can help mitigate the impacts of the ongoing trucker crisis and capacity shortage.Risks Of Combined Transport

Risks of Combined Transport

Like any other process in the supply chain, if you don’t cover your planning, there might be risks. Let’s understand them and then talk about how to avoid them.

  • Increased complexities: If dealing with the process internally, there’s a risk of increased complexity in logistics operations due to the coordination required between different transportation providers. This can lead to potential communication breakdowns, causing delays and increasing costs;
  • Inferior customer service and experience: Without a direct and fast connection between all transport and service providers involved in the same shipment, delays and other possible disruptions to what was planned can directly affect the final customer.

How to Guarantee efficiency in Combined Transport?

Without the support of expertise and technology, booking, coordinating, and tracking a shipment through different transport modes can be tricky for freight forwarders - increasing operational time.

But there are ways to guarantee you get the best out of this strategy. The most important steps are:

  • Digitalization: This is the first step towards any type of optimization in the transportation industry. For freight forwarders, shippers, and carriers having a basic TMS is unavoidable - without it, the coordination and communication between partners becomes a daily struggle;
  • Specialized technology: Now that you already have a TMS, it’s time to think about obtaining efficiency in your intermodal transport. The market is evolving, and different solutions can tackle the risks in combined transport, but the best option is to look for a specialized platform that can connect, book and manage transport seamlessly;
  • Collaboration: Plus, you must work closely with transportation providers to ensure their equipment and processes are up-to-date and meet industry standards.

Implementing the use of digital combined transport is the answer to the lack of efficiency and reliability sometimes present in freight transport.

rouvia provides an e-procurement platform specialized in multimodal and combined transportation, covering planning, procurement, management, communication, digital documentation, and tracking to optimize your shipments. Get started now and consult with one of our transportation experts.

Mehedi Hasan
Logistics Content Writer
January 23, 2023

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