Managing intermodal hinterland networks

The hinterland is the inland region in connection with a port. Compared with the full distance travelled by a container from origin to destination, the distance covered in the hinterland is typically relatively small. However, this part is increasingly recognized as a key part of the overall container transportation chain, as the proportion of hinterland costs relative to the total container transportation costs ranges from 40% to 80%. In this Operations Practice, a series of new managerial insights is proposed for the management of intermodal hinterland networks at the container level. Furthermore, the study takes a look at the cargo inside the container, by examining the feasibility of on-dock transloading and cross-docking.

The main results can be summarized as follows:

  • Intermodal transportation projects are viable for short and medium distances if the volume is big and the origin/destination drayage distances are low.
  • Shippers should request quotes that depend on the volume shipped from intermodal service companies and inland terminals.
  •  Coordination may be critical for successfully implementing an intermodal hinterland network even if the value of such coordination may be quite low.
  •  About 10% of the dry containers imported via the port of Rotterdam apply for transloading and the average saving per 40-foot container would be about € 20.
  •  On-dock transloading and cross-docking is of limited interest for fresh and frozen products with the current logistical settings in the Netherlands.