Transport can be described as the movement of goods from one place to the other. Transportation modes are the means through which transport is done. There are various transportation modes such as roads, railway, water and air. These transportation modes vary in terms of cost, capacity and convenience. Transportation modes are supported by various infrastructures without which such modes cannot be helpful. For instance, the road transport relies on the conditions of the roads and the road network in the area. This means that, for a transportation mode to be effective, there is a need to incur capital expenditure. This means that transport is not a domestic issue but a nationwide and worldwide issue. There is a need for government intervention to realize better transportation modes. Transport modes are, therefore, paramount for growth and development of the nation. Better means of transport is a sign of economic development. This is because with good transport system business is well facilitated, and exchange of goods and services becomes easier and convenient. Nevertheless, it is upon the business entity to decide which mode of transport to rely on to do business depending on various factors.
A business needs to evaluate factors such as bulkiness of the goods, perishability, cost, distance, availability of the mode of transport among others when deciding on the means of transport to be adopted. For example, air mode of transport is convenient for less bulky and perishable goods such as flowers while the railway transport is the best for bulky non-perishable goods such as metals and other manufactured hardware (TSC, 2011). Road transport is suitable for bulky and light, perishable and non-perishable goods, but its reliability is dependent on the condition of the road and the distance. The nature of goods being transported and the distance in addition to the cost are the main determinants of the choice of mode of transport. This paper gives an overview of transport modes and examine them in details showing advantages and disadvantages associated with each of them. This may facilitate decision making in various levels of the economy.
Road transport is usually done using trucks. It is mostly done in conjunction with other modes of transport. For example, trucks can be used to transport goods to the railway station or to the airport or from the stations to the places where they are required such as markets or industries. This mode of transport is, therefore, used on both ends of the distribution chain (DOE, 2002). The unit cost per kilometer of the truck transport is usually much higher in comparison to other modes of transport and hence worthwhile only where distances are short (Wilner & Association of American Railroads, 1981). However, this mode of transport may be preferred where the truck transport is the fastest mode of transport available, where goods can be transported continuously or where this mode of transport can be combined with others easily. This mode of transport may become easier to establish especially where there exist transport companies that offer such services. Companies may engage in contract with such companies for regular freights of their goods. Trucks may be full trailers or semitrailers. The full trailers have several stowage places while a semitrailer have a single continuous stowage space, and the later has a smaller working load and lower operation costs (Wilner & Association of American Railroads, 1981). This mode of transport is popular in most parts of the world. Nevertheless, the use of this mode of transport is often discredited due to its emission of carbon gasses in the air.
This mode of transport is used where large lots of carriage is needed for long distances. Railway transport is reliable as it has a secure time schedule and has moderate carriage rates. It is commonly used for domestic transport especially where goods need to be transported for long distances to or from the ports (DOE, 2002). The railway transport operates with timetables thus enhancing reliability and merchandise requires no handling while on transit. The affordability of this mode of transport depends mainly on the locations of the buyers and the sellers.
Sea transport is most popular with importation of goods between continents and countries with sea ports. It has the lowest unit cargo price per kilometer compared to other modes of transport (NRC,1978). Since the ship may have several loading and offloading points, its advantage over other modes can only be determined while considering the whole delivery chain (DOE, 2002). Factors to consider when evaluating this form of transport include the transport required to the port, the charges at the port at departures and arrivals, the cost of sea transport itself as well as the costs which may be incurred if reshipment is required (TSC, 2011). The special packaging and inspection costs which may be required should also be considered. The sea transport may take the form of tramp shipping or liner shipping.
This is one of the most expensive modes of transport. It is mostly preferred where goods transported are of high value and requires urgent delivery. Nowadays, there have been designed special planes for cargo transport. Air transport is one of the fastest growing mode of transport and with the advancement of technology, it is expected that it will be easier and cheaper to transport all types of loads through the air (Wensveen, & Wells 2007). This form of transport requires road transport since planes land only on airports, but not exactly to the destination of merchandise (TSC, 2011). However, international air transportation is dependent on the destination schedules of various airlines and, therefore, it is important to put this in mind while considering this mode of transport.
There is no single mode of transport that can be said to be most appropriate for all businesses. Various factors have to be considered while making decisions on the mode of transport to be used. Nonetheless, a company needs not to rely on a single mode of transport. This is because it may be cost effective to combine several modes of transport for cost efficiency and effectiveness in transportation. It is also important to determine the effect of the mode of transport on the environment and consider using the safest. Some modes of transport such as road transport are controlled by the government. It is, therefore, important to review the relevant policies put in place to avoid collision with the law. In some countries, trucks should not exceed a certain level of load capacity failure to which there are legal consequences (TSC, 2011). Inherently, it is plausible to consider all factors surrounding the mode of transport to ensure that they go along with the development and profit maximization objectives of the entity. Transport modes are an important consideration in strategizing on companies operations.
National Research Council (É.-U.). (1978). Energy efficiency of various transportation modes. Washington, D.C: National Academy of Sciences.
The Swiss Confederation (2011).National Reporting To CSD 18/19 By Switzerland. Transport. Retrieved on 22nd march 2014 from http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/dsd_aofw_ni/ni_pdfs/NationalReports/switzerland/transport.pdf
Wensveen, J. G., & Wells, A. T. (2007). Air transportation: A management perspective. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.
Wilner, F. N., & Association of American Railroads. (1981). User charges and transportation efficiency: Why transportation modes must compete on the basis of market forces rather than federal subsidies. Washington, D.C: Association of American Railroads.