Developmentof Intermodal Transportation in the U.S.
Sincethe pre-industrial era, changes in the amount and composition ofcargo moved for long distances in the domestic and global marketsresulted in key changes in freight handling and movement. Major cargoroutes evolved in response to market trends fueled by consumerdemands. The high demand for transportation services saw theconceptualization of intermodal transportation, which forms a keypillar of the world trade and the American economy today. Intermodaltransportation entails the use of different modes of transport todistribute goods packed into a loading unit such as a container, fromthe manufacturer to the client or market. It aims at integratingseveral modes of transport to improve efficiency in the distributionof goods. It has developed gradually in history since theconstruction of rail networks. In the history of transportation inthe United States, four major modes of transport have been used tocarry goods. These are road, air, water and rail. Water transporttransports bulky cargo at low costs while air transport moves lightcargo fast. On the other hand, rail transport moves bulky goods overlong distances on land, while road transport moves limited cargo overshort distances. Various factors have to into play in recent years inthe US regarding the nature of transportation, the volume of cargohauled and the distance covered.
Themovement of cargo using two or more modes of transport has beenaround since time immemorial. Waterways were used to move goods andpeople in the early times. During the nineteenth century, railnetworks and railway terminals evolved followed by air and pipelinenetworks. Since then, these modes of transport have been used to movecargo from one point to another in the United States. For instance,in the pre-industrial era, goods were transferred from ships towheeled vehicles on land. This process was facilitated by thedevelopment of docks and ports. After the construction of railwaynetworks and terminals, cargo exchange among the various modes oftransport expanded (Konings, 2008). The growth and expansion ofmultimodal transportation gradually paved way for the introduction ofintermodal transportation in the late 20th century (Konings, 2008).Contrary to multimodal transportation, intermodal transportationintegrated cargo movement from one mode to another in a unitizemanner. In qualitative terms, intermodal transportation was verydistinct from multimodal transportation. This was because in improvedefficiency through increased competition among firms in the freightsector, and sought to enhance transportation by increasing safety,speed, and reducing congestion thereby enhancing efficiency. Greaterefficiency led to lower operation costs and increased thecompetitiveness of American freight firms in the global cargotransport industry.
Thepopularity of intermodal transportation saw the enactment of theIntermodal Surface Transportation Act (ISTEA) that sought toreinforce the significance of intermodal transportation (Konings,2008). It also challenged state authorities and the federalgovernment to increase linkages among water, land and air transportmodes to improve the effectiveness of the networks in promotingintermodalism. Since the 1980s, sensitizations for improvement ofinfrastructure coupled with technological developments havefacilitated the feasibility of intermodal transportation (Konings,2008). The ISTEA Act of 1991 is proof of the increased emphasisplaced on intermodal transportation by the United States Departmentof Transportation. This mode of transport continues to gainsignificance in the movement of goods with the primary idea ofconsolidating loads to enhance efficiency in long-distancetransportation, particularly by rail or sea vessels. This conceptexplains the popularity and significance of containerization in theUS today, which is an ideal example of intermodal freighttransportation. Through intermodal transportation, US consignors canmove containers for long distances to their consignees throughvarious chains and vice versa.
Sinceits development in the 1980s, intermodal freight transportationimproves efficiency and reduces the cost of transport for manyshippers. This mode of transport promotes efficiency throughreduction of transport costs. The modes of transport involved in theintermodal network offer differential cost-benefit advantages due tothe variation in their average distances covered (Bhattacharya etal., 2014). Moreover, intermodal mode of transport provides morevalue to the consignors and consignees. This is attributed to thehigh level of energy efficiency attained because of the integrationof various forms of transport (Bhattacharya et al., 2014). Inaddition, intermodal transportation enhances reliability, safety, andcapacity. Shippers using intermodal freight transport can accessbetter equipment and regular transit timetables. For this reason,companies using intermodal transportation can streamline theirlogistical issues, which can be cost saving. The greatestdisadvantage of intermodal transportation is infrastructure. Thismode of transport requires more interchanging terminals that requirehuge capital investments for construction and maintenance. Slowdevelopment of infrastructural facilities have caused the slow growthof this mode of transport, but the decentralization ofinfrastructural decisions may facilitate its expansion.
Thestudy aims to identify the historical development and the currentstatus of the intermodal freight transport system. The role of thepolicymakers in promoting the intermodal transport system will alsobe discussed. It is believed that non-road transportation is betterthan road transportation due to less energy consumption. Intermodaltransportation is, therefore, the most recommended means to transportlong distance freight. It uses the ship, rail, and truck to attain aviable transport sector. However, the system has not attained a largemarket share as expected. Therefore, its historical development andacceptance in the US require an analysis (Arnold, et al. 2012). Aninvestigation into substantial literature, including the evolutiontimelines by authors concerning intermodal transportation, is alsorequired.
Waterwaysthrough the use of ships are the most used form of transportation byabout 30%, road transportation is utilized by 28%, and the rail takes26% (Racunica & Wynter, 2013). The earlier days saw rail as themost used form of transport, but recently, roads and waterways arethe most used forms. The growth in road and waterways utilization isattributed to political influence on intermodal freight transport,which aims at lowering the transportation cost (Forkenbrock, 2011).Availability of storage space in terminals is important because itimpacts on the effectiveness of the intermodal freight alternativesavailable.
Accordingto the Slack, (2016) for the past two decades the freighttransportation in USA has been transformed from a sector that isheavily dominated by resistant to innovation and regulation to adynamic industry that plays a critical in contributing to growth ofproductivity and it is driven by rapid market, technological andorganizational change. In 1995, the total freight expenditure in U.S.was worth $ 440 billion. Chen and Miller-Hooks (2012) observed thatthe Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA)that governed the release of about $ 30 billion annual revenues tothe U.S. government from vehicle excise duty and fuel, is one of themost important steps that was taken to facilitation the intermodaltransportation.
Thedeclaration policy of ISTEA states that it is the U.S. policy todevelop national intermodal transportation system which isenvironmentally and economically sound, that will offer thefoundation for the country to compete in the global economy and theone that will help to move goods and people in a manner that isenergy efficient. The policy also states that the National IntermodalTransportation System is made up of all forms transportation in aninterconnected and unified way including the future transportationsystems to reduce the air pollution, energy consumption while at thesame time prompting the economic development and offering support toNation’s preeminent position in the international commerce.Kalašová, Kapusta and Toman (2016) noted that ISTEA complements alegislation that was established in 1995, helps to raise and supportthe intermodal priority programs that serve freight movement.Intermodal transportation in U.S. has grown too sophisticated overthe years, with increasing demand as the population grows. However,according to Kalasová, Kapusta & Toman (2016) despite theincrease in the level of complexity and sophistication, Intermodaltransportation in the country has improved its reliance, sufficiencyand effectiveness due to such ways as development in informationcommunication technology.
Slack(2016) carried out a study to investigate the extent to whichintermodal transportation has grown over the world. The studyrevealed that U.S. and other developed economies had developed a verycomplex intermodal system over the years. The intermodaltransportation has helped in making the world a global village wheregoods can easily move from one region to another around the world.This has facilitated in taking advantage of resources endowment invarious countries. alašová, Kapusta and Toman (2016) stipulatedthat the US intermodal transportation system has over the yearshelped to reduce cargo handling, reduce loss and damage, improvesecurity, and allow faster freight transportation. TheIntercontinental intermodal transportation mode has facilitatedglobal integration with U.S. playing a key role.
Intermodalfreight transportation is a significant factor in the world tradetoday. This mode of transport integrates two or more modes oftransport for cargo haulage over long distances. It emerged in the USin the 1980s leading to the modern cargo transport industry today.The government played a key role in ensuring that intermodaltransportation develops through initiatives such as infrastructuraldevelopment and enactment of the ISTEA Act of 1991 to oversee itsgrowth. It offers the shippers several benefits that include reducedcosts, reliability, capacity and more value compared to using asingle mode of transport.
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