The Different Modes of Transport in Logistics

The different modes of transport in logistics are at the center of any business strategy. They include common activities such as storing, handling, packing, routing, and transporting goods. The choice of a means of transport adapted to the management of the Supply Chain is a real problem, to which business leaders are trying to provide an adequate response.

There is a multitude of types of transport. In logistics, there are 4 main ones: road, sea, rail, and air. Depending on the company’s industry, it may be more strategic to adopt one mode of transportation over another. That said, each mode of transportation has its advantages and disadvantages.

Road Transport

Road transport means the transport of goods by cars, trucks, vans (industrial vehicles with less than 3.5 tonnes GVW according to French legislation), or trailers. It is the most common mode of land transport in France. It is also very popular in the rest of the world. The reason is simple: loading and unloading goods is much simpler compared to other modes of transport.

But that’s not all! Road transport is fast and economical for short trips. Thus, it is accessible to all companies, from SMEs to large companies. Above all, it is also very practical not only for short and direct journeys but also for long-distance transport, because it promotes door-to-door canvassing.

However, road transport does not only have advantages. One of the major disadvantages remains the emission of combustion gases responsible for the greenhouse effect. Thus, it can be a public health problem. At a time when environmental issues are at the heart of governments’ agendas, this is sobering. In addition, road congestion at certain times of the day is likely to delay deliveries.

To this must be added:

  • The risk of an accident;
  • the risk of theft;
  • a fairly small storage capacity.

Rail Transport

Popular in Russia and the United States, rail freight transport is less widespread in France. It accounts for less than 10% of national freight transport. However, it offers quite interesting advantages. Indeed, this mode of transport is suitable for particularly heavy goods and long journeys. The impact on the price is really minimal. The train, in addition to participating in the decongestion of the roads, offers a large storage capacity. This quantity may become increasingly important as the number of cars increases.

These advantages must be associated with a number of disadvantages. Thus, since it is land transport, the risk of accidents is high. There are 5 main risks associated with rail transport:

  • Derailment, i.e. when the train leaves the rails due to a switch problem, excessive speed, or mechanical failure;
  • catch-up, where the impact between two trains, one of which was stamped at the rear by the other;
  • Slingshot, which occurs when two trains collide on sides when arriving simultaneously at an intersection;
  • the nose-to-nose, i.e. the head-on collision between two trains arriving in front of each other;
  • collision with an obstacle, when the train collides with rubble obstructing the track or a land vehicle parked on the tracks.

In addition, freight transport by rail takes longer than by road. It takes between 1 and 3 days for additional delivery. We can also point out:

  • Lack of railway infrastructure;
  • heavy handling requirements for loading and unloading goods, resulting in losses;
  • the high rate of damage with fairly frequent delays.

Maritime Transport

Historically, ocean freight has been the most frequently used transportation for companies with large volumes. Over time and with technological developments, it has become a safe and fast means of transport to transport more and more cargo around the world. Sea freight is without context the most common means of transport. If it arouses the interest of large companies, it is because it offers a large storage capacity.

If sea freight is advantageous, it is also because a ship can transport all kinds of goods, solid or liquid, packaged or not: petroleum products, vehicles, crates, machinery, oversized pallets, etc. The maritime transport of goods offers other advantages. It is considered the most environmentally friendly mode of transport given the volume of goods it is able to transport in a single shipment. In addition, a boat consumes less energy than a train, plane, or truck.

It is also a competitive mode of transport with high potential, in which degressive tariffs are charged. Thus, compared to other means of transport such as air freight, sea freight is very profitable over distances exceeding 500 km. It is also much safer than land transport by road and rail. This is an important criterion, not only because the risk of an accident is low, but also because the transport of dangerous goods is allowed.

However, sea freight has disadvantages:

  • Customs procedures are cumbersome and time-consuming;
  • delivery times are quite long;
  • the boat is poorly suited to transporting fresh or rapidly perishable products;
  • The vessel is weather dependent and exposed to the risk of piracy.

Air Transport

It is the fastest mode of freight transport for long distances. It is especially suitable for transporting rapidly perishable products, such as foodstuffs, which may not survive a long journey, or fragile goods, such as weather-sensitive pharmaceuticals. Because of its speed, this mode of transport makes it possible to reduce the transit time of goods, which also has the advantage of avoiding disruptions in logistics chains.

Air transport is also a reliable means of transport. Not only does it have the lowest index in terms of claims, but it offers more guarantees for sending high-value items. There is also no risk of destruction before the destination, as items are placed in standardized containers that facilitate loading and unloading. We could also mention the safety offered by this mode of transport.