Intermodal transportation makes the handling of freight simpler, quicker and more affordable by storing freight in containers that can be moved from truck, to train, to ship without having to unload and reload containers.

Rail and intermodal transportation software allows an organisation to manage this type of freight effectively by providing optimal arrangement of containers along a train to minimise the number of wagons (tare weight) and move the centre of weight further to the front of the train.

Application relevance

There is software available, targeted at Australian rail operations.

Potential benefits

Intermodal transportation represents a cost-effective and energy-efficient alternative to long-haul road transportation. The software can also provide up-to-the minute information to customers or vendors with the potential to link directly with an organisation’s accounting software.

Key implementation considerations

Software varies widely depending on what services an organisation offers in addition to its specific needs. Software also needs to be selected so that an organisation is not paying for options that do not work for them.

Communication of the software to achieve outcomes may require new procedures – for example, rail yards may require better coordination of drivers and other logistics personnel. Software should be selected that will grow with an organisation.

In addition, cost effectiveness of implementing new practices based on intermodal train planning software will be based on the consideration of energy efficiency.

Examples of implementation

Research paper: ‘A decision support system for intermodal train planning’ 

Train planning is the process of assigning containers to certain wagons on an intermodal train. Intermodal terminals are highly integrated systems that create a difficult planning environment for computerised decision support systems. This research paper (opens in a new page) PDF 393 KB describes a detailed mathematical optimisation model and how it was implemented within a software system called ITP – Intermodal Train Planner (Corry & Kozan 2006). 

For the full report, see Fuel for Thought – Identifying potential energy efficiency opportunities in the Australian road and rail sectors (opens in a new window) PDF 1.5 MB.