Review of intermodal freight transportation in humanitarian logistics

Using intermodal transportation is vital for the delivery of relief supplies when single mode alternative becomes unusable or infeasible. The objective of this paper is to investigate the use of intermodal freight transportation in humanitarian logistics. This paper first identifies the differences between multimodal and intermodal transportation. Then, we examine the use of each transportation mode for specific disaster types and phases. When combinations of transportation modes (i.e. air, road, rail and sea) for intermodal transportation are considered together with different disaster types (e.g. earthquake, flood and famine), the feasible decision space becomes rather large. To explore this decision space, we have reviewed the academic and practitioner studies as well as several non-governmental organizations (NGO)’ disaster archives. From this exploration, we developed a transportation mode/disaster-type combination matrix and a transportation mode/disaster-phase combination matrix. We then discuss examples of real life usage of intermodal transportation in humanitarian logistics and share our findings and analyses. Of 369 academic humanitarian logistics articles, only 20 have mentioned transportation mode changes. In practitioner studies, we found a decreasing percentage of the usage of slower modes (e.g. sea and rail) in the disaster response phase over time. We were not able to find a significant relationship between a specific transportation mode and a specific disaster-type or -phase. Road transportation seems to cover most of the disaster operations regardless of the disaster-type or -phase. We can conclude that intermodality and the transportation unit concept is not being studied extensively in humanitarian logistics. Most of the relief organizations do not share transported freight amounts in their reports and those that do share transported freight amounts in their reports do not explicitly mention mode changes. We discuss the enablers of and obstacles to the effective use of intermodal transportation in humanitarian logistics and propose future research directions. We anticipate that intermodal transportation in humanitarian logistics will garner greater research attention and increased utilization in coming years.

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    • © 2017 Mustafa Alp Ertem et al. The contents of this paper reflect the views of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Transportation Research Board or the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Authors:
    • Ertem, Mustafa Alp
    • İşbilir, Melike
    • Arslan, Ayşenur Şahin
  • Publication Date: 2017-3


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01630351
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Mar 27 2017 9:35AM