Getting the best transit time routing is not the same as getting the best total shipping cost.
To obtain the best routing is not the same as getting the best total shipping cost. Using a combination of different transport carriers is sometimes better to achieve the best total shipping cost for door to door movements. However, it requires more logistics coordination and hands-on involvement. Using a single transport carrier to provide a door to door movement, may achieve the best routing. It requires less logistics coordination and paperwork.
Intermodal is defined as the movement of cargo from origin to destination by several modes of transport where each of these modes have a different transport carrier responsible, each with its own independent contract. Multiple carriers during a single journey. Each leg of the shipment is be handled by a separate transport carrier. The Shipper will have several contracts, one with each transport carrier to handle their specific leg of the shipment.
Multimodal is defined as the movement of cargo from origin to destination by several modes of transport where each of these modes have a different transport carrier responsible, However under a single contract or bill of lading. Single carrier during a single journey. The same transport carrier is responsible for moving the shipment in all legs, in all modes. In simple terms, Multimodal is using various modes of transport but with one transport bill of lading.
The differentiation between multimodal and intermodal lies in the contract/ bill of lading and transport carrier responsibility / liability of the movement.
According to DHL, "The advantage of both Intermodal and Multimodal Transport is given by the most efficient combination of multiple transport modes, optimizing lead times, reducing inventory costs and keeping the level of freight costs under control. This combination results in increased environmental sustainability, reducing the transportation carbon footprint".
Advantages of Multimodal transportation are associated with: a) Shipment tracking efficiency able to monitor with one transport carrier from door to door delivery; b) access to remote parts of the world with responsibility and liability of the movement with one transport carrier; c) efficiency in delivery time; and d) minimization of logistics coordination expenses of a shipper.