CT refers to intermodal transport where the main leg is carried by rail, sea or inland waterway. In contrast, the initial and/or final sections, which are intended to be as short as possible, are performed by road transport[1]. According to the definition presented by L. Mindur and M. Gąsior, combined transport is classified as the European intermodal transport, in which a load unit in long-distance traffic is transported (without reloading the goods) between terminals by rail, inland waterway or coastal sea, and its arrival and departure, over the shortest possible distances, is carried out by road [2]. It is therefore an orderly sequence of operations to organize and ensure the delivery of goods from the producer to the final customer. 

The characteristics of combined transport, which must be classified as a complex transport process, are four elements[3] :

  1. organizational structure comprising specialized economic operators responsible for the comprehensive management of transport processes. These are so-called combined transport operators (intermediaries) who undertake to organize combined transport, i.e., carriage of goods by different modes of transport (particularly rail and road transport). Only one carrier is involved in[4] the transport;
  2. the technical-technological link between the linear (roads, waterways, and railways) and point-to-point (terminals, maritime ports) infrastructures of the various modes of transport adapted to handle the same unified load unit;
  3. the Commission has proposed a single transport document for the entire supply chain (the combined transport bill of lading), a single legal regime regulating the conditions of supply and the liability of the parties (a single contract that covers the entire transport process with the stipulation of a rate for the entire supply process); and
  4. a unified transport unit such as a semi-trailer, swap body or container (the element physically linking the whole).

CT operators accept transport orders from freight forwarders and organise CT throughout the supply chain. They also contract licensed rail hauliers to carry out transport between terminals/stations/loading points[5]

The CT supply chain is shown in Figure 9.1.

[1] J. Neider, Introduction to forwarding [in:] Manual of a forwarder. Ed. D. Marcinia-Neider, J. Neider, Gdynia 2020, p. 68; . Barcik, L. Bylinko, Perspektywy transportu intermodalnego w Polsce [in:] Transport. Scientific Papers of the Warsaw University of Technology, No. 120, 2018, p. 10.

[2] L. Mindur, M. Gąsior, Intermodal transport, Technika Transportu Szynowego. Eksploatacja, Nr 6/2003; http://yadda.icm.edu.pl/baztech/element/bwmeta1.element.baztech-article-BGPK-0638-3047

[3] Ibid, p. 46.

[4] https://www.timocom.pl/lexicon/leksykon-transportowy/operator-transportu-kombinowanego-cto

[5] M. Kozerska, P. Smolnik, Intermodal transport in Poland on the example of PKP Cargo, Zeszyty Naukowe Wydziału Ekonomicznego Uniwersytetu Gdańskiego, Ekonomika Transportu i Logistyka No. 62 (2017), p. 235.

In CT, the main part of the haulage is carried out by rail or sea transport, while the so-called “feeder” sections are carried out as little as possible by road. An example of CT is shown in Figure 9.2.

The role of the combined transport operator is to organize the transport of goods between the sender and the receiver. It is therefore an intermediary whose task is to organize the transport in such a way that the goods are delivered to their final destination in accordance with the customer’s wishes, with the need to carry out any additional operations, e.g., customs clearance or collection of payment for the goods. In practice, it may happen that the combined transport operator is at the same time a forwarding agent. He then acts as an adviser on transport processes for various branches of transport. In order to organize this process properly, it is necessary to carry out the activities in a certain order, in a certain way and in mutual connection with each other[1]

If the main part of the cargo is carried by maritime transport, the operator/forwarder begins cooperation with the terminal by agreeing on the conditions. These agreements concern the handling of cargo in the port and especially the prices for handling, manipulation, and storage services. If the goods are shipped in a container, the operator/forwarder takes the empty container and gives the carrier (e.g., road carrier) the order for transport. Then, after the consignor fills the container, it is delivered to the port and the operator/forwarder orders reloading in the relation: means of transport, yard, ship’s side. In the case of general cargo and bulk cargo, in order to complete a ship’s lot within a certain time limit, the operator/forwarder establishes the possibility of the terminal accepting a certain cargo lot for storage on the yard or in the warehouse. He then advises the operator of the cargo by issuing a transshipment order for the relation: inland means of transport – yard/warehouse together with the number of the means of transport, quantity, and weight of the cargo and its characteristics. After completing the ship’s batch (or slightly before), the operator/shipper informs the terminal about the planned loading of the ship. The port confirms that the ship can be accepted at the given time or the parties agree on another date. The operator/forwarder then updates the vessel’s time of arrival, obtains confirmation from the operator on the vessel’s ability to handle the vessel and issues an order for the activities to be paid for. Most often, the operator/shipper will order the terminal operator to carry out reloading in the relation: yard/warehouse—ship’s side—loading. Depending on the transport competence, he may also order the lashing or securing of the cargo in the hold. In the case of bulk cargoes, there are reloading relations and the so-called loading trim, so in practice the reloading relation means filling the ship’s hold with cargo in the order and quantity agreed with the ship’s command (the so-called loading sequence)[2]

If the main part of the transport is carried out by rail, the operator/forwarder is obliged to order a specific transport by submitting the relevant documents to order the wagons. The next phase is dispatching. These depend on the assortment but also on the capacity of the loading station.[3] “Thanks to the possibility of using electronic letters and concluding station service contracts, the problems associated with the need to sign many documents, fill in original waybills, make payments and visit the freight counter, have been reduced. In addition, for most of the operators formal and operational activities related to sending and delivering the consignment and making entries in the consignment note (in the part filled in by the operator) are performed by a two-person crew driving the train. With the support of carrier’s own dispatching points along the route, the necessity to maintain railway stations and dispatching offices in places of clearance of consignments (sent for transport and handed over at destination) was eliminated. This kind of simplified organization of transport is proving possible for full-train transports, which is not without an impact on the cost of such a service”[4].

When organizing road transport, the operator/forwarder usually hires a hauler to whom he orders transport[5]. The order, apart from the type of vehicle ordered, the receiver’s address, or the properties of the goods, also includes provisions that are to protect potential claims for transport damages, such as the obligation for the carrier to have liability insurance in the amount corresponding to the value of the transported goods. The forwarding process ends with settling the transaction by: issuing an invoice to the customer, including the settlement of possible additional costs related to the performed transport, settlement of invoices received from the carrier, after checking the correctness of received transport documents and checking the correctness of customs procedures if the transport was related to the necessity of their performance[6].

In all cases the decision to engage intermodal transport technologies bases on four main factors:[7]

  1. transport mode characteristics,
  2. cost and service requirements,
  3. consignment factors, and
  4. operational factors.

[1] K. Długokęcka, P. Simiński, Forwarder as an important link in the supply chain, Zeszyty Naukowe Uniwersytetu Przyrodniczo-Humanistycznego w Siedlcach, Seria: Administration and Management (32), No. 105/2015, p. 45.

[2] G. Kita, Handling of cargo in the sea port [in:] Manual of a forwarderRed. D. Marcinia-Neider, J. Neider, Gdynia 2020 , pp. 364-366. 

[3] T. Truś, M. Biadacz-Marek, Railway transport: railway network in Poland and Europe, Przegląd Naukowo- Metodyczny. Education for Safety no. 1, 2013, p. 49.

[4] A. Dudkowski, Transport kolejowy [in:] Speditor’s handbook. Red. D. Marcinia-Neider, J. Neider, Gdynia 2020, p. 440. 

[5] W. Miotke, J. Stróżyk, Transport drogowy [in:] Podręcznik spedytora. Red. D. Marcinia-Neider, J. Neider, Gdynia 2020, p. 398-402.

[6] Ibid. 

[7] G. Eriksson, M. Yaruta, Mapping barriers in intermodal transportation, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden 2018, p. 31.