Intermodal transport

Combined Efficiency
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Trasporto intermodale: icona che rappresenta un container che viene sollevato e spostato da una parte all'altra

Intermodal Transport: Combined Efficiency for 360° Optimization

Intermodal transport involves moving goods from the point of origin to the destination within a single loading unit, called an Intermodal Transport Unit (ITU). This optimizes time and costs while ensuring greater security for the goods.



Intermodal transport, utilizing standardized Intermodal Transport Units (ITUs) designed to be easily transferred from one mode of transportation to another, allows for optimal utilization of individual transport modes based on the type of cargo and the route to be traveled.
In cases where transportation involves the use of different modes as well as different containers, it is referred to as multimodal transport.

Intermodal transport involves moving goods from the point of origin to the destination within a single cargo unit, which must be standardized to avoid issues such as "cargo breakage." The main units used include containers (the most commonly used and often the most economical type), semi-trailers (ideal for Rail+Road transport), and swap bodies, which do not require auxiliary equipment for loading/unloading from the vehicle.


Combined Transport (CT) can be considered a subcategory of intermodal transport, referring to all transports where the longest part of the route is carried out by rail or water, while the initial and final segments are covered by road. Combined Transport primarily addresses European objectives aimed at reducing pollution and simultaneously easing road congestion.

Combined Transport is further organized into Unaccompanied Combined Transport (UCT) and Accompanied Combined Transport (ACT): the former involves the transport of only the cargo unit, with the change of truck and driver depending on the transfer points, while the latter also includes the presence of the entire truck and driver.

When ACT occurs in the road-rail mode, the entire truck is loaded onto the train, and it is referred to as a Rolling Highway.


Intermodal transports between European Union member states are subject to Directive 92/106/EEC of December 1992, transposed into Italian law on February 15, 2001. The regulation stipulates that intermodal transport must be evidenced by a transport document clearly indicating that the goods are being moved in a combined manner.

Currently, there is no recognized model of an intermodal transport document, and if necessary, either a written document or comprehensive documentation (from which the methods and route of the goods can be reconstructed) may be presented. The essential information includes::

  • Carrier data for road transport;
  • For water or rail segments, the loading and unloading station or port must be indicated on a document to be completed before the start of transport and kept on the vehicle throughout the journey;
  • If the road segment is the final one, the certification must indicate the precise delivery location for mobile boxes or containers, or the hitching and destination location for trailers and semitrailers, or even the starting and ending locations for the entire vehicle complex.

If the road segment corresponds to the initial part of the journey, a stamp will not be required, but conformity between the documentation presented during checks and other documents on board will still be necessary.

Intermodal transport, with its flexibility, allows for the movement of any type of goods by leveraging the advantages of different modes of transportation, combining, for example, the sustainability of rail with the speed of road transport. Intermodal transport maximizes various modes of transportation, optimizing time and costs, and overall, proving to be a sustainable choice, it ensures greater security of the goods, which are not transferred from one container to another and often turns out to be more economical than many other options.

On the downside, the main drawback is the organizational difficulty, which can be overcome if the management of the transport is entrusted to an experienced freight forwarder.

CSW Italia, with years of experience, can assist you in the best way possible in organizing intermodal transport