Source: adapted from Zumerchik, J., J-P Rodrigue and J. Lanigan Sr., (2009) "Automated Transfer Management Systems to Improve the Intermodal Performance of North American Rail Freight Distribution", The Journal of the Transportation Research Forum, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 59-76.
Cost / Performance Relationships for Inland Freight Transportation Modes
Inland transport systems can be serviced by a range of transport modes with a spectrum of cost / performance relationships. Barge transportation or short sea shipping have the lowest cost, but tend to have a low level of performance in terms of speed, reliability and flexibility of service. Air transportation is highly performing, but this at the expense of high costs and a lower capacity. Thus, modal choice is commonly a trade of between performance and costs.
Intermodal rail has significantly contributed to improvements in freight distribution and the potential remains to maintain similar cost structure to rail carload service while providing the service level of truckload freight. By reducing the number of times a container is handled, the number of operations involved in the transfer, the distance (within the terminal) over which a container is handled, and the labor, equipment and time needed for a transfer, efficiency and productivity improvements (better asset utilization) can be achieved. Equally important would be improving vessel and train turn times (from inbound arrival to outbound departure), and reducing drayage costs by shortening the wait time for drivers delivering and picking up containers from shippers and consignees, particularly at port terminals, as well as an elimination of deadhead, empty loads and empty trips.