Opportunities for OR in intermodal freight transport research: A review

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  • nte: A



    , Brus

    nd Sp

    Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands

    the same loading unit or vehicle which uses suc- Fig. 1 provides a simple depiction of roadrail

    intermodal freight transport. A shipment thatneeds to be transported from a shipper to a re-

    ceiver is rst transported by truck to a terminal.

    There it is transhipped from truck to its secondmode, in this instance a train. The train takes care

    *Corresponding author. Tel.: +32-2-629-2286; fax: +32-2-

    European Journal of Operational Rese629-2060.

    E-mail addresses: cathy.macharis@vub.ac.be (C. Macharis),1. Introduction

    Intermodal freight transport has developed into

    a signicant sector of the transport industry in its

    own right. This development has been followed by

    an increase in intermodal freight transportation

    research. Intermodal freight transport is the term

    used to describe the movement of goods in one and

    cessive, various modes of transport (road, rail,

    water) without any handling of the goods them-selves during transfers between modes (European

    Conference of Ministers of Transport, 1993). In

    this paper we focus on inland intermodal freight

    transport, railtruck and bargetruck transport.

    Comparable research involving ocean shipping is

    not taken into account in this paper.Abstract

    Intermodal transport reects the combination of at least two modes of transport in a single transport chain, without

    a change of container for the goods, with most of the route traveled by rail, inland waterway or ocean-going vessel, and

    with the shortest possible initial and nal journeys by road. Operational Research has focused mostly on transport

    problems of uni-modal transport modes. We argue that intermodal freight transportation research is emerging as a new

    transportation research application eld, that it still is in a pre-paradigmatic phase, and that it needs a dierent type of

    models than those applicated to uni-modal transport. In this paper a review is given of the operational research models

    that are currently used in this emerging eld and the modelling problems, which need to be addressed.

    2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Operational research; Intermodal transport; TransportationOpportunities for OR in iresearch

    C. Macharis a,*, Ya Department of Business Economics and S

    Pleinlaan 2, M 209b Department of Infrastructure, Transport abontekoning@otb.tudelft.nl (Y.M. Bontekoning).1 Tel.: +31-15-278-2174; fax: +31-15-278-3450.

    0377-2217/$ - see front matter 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reservdoi:10.1016/S0377-2217(03)00161-9rmodal freight transportreview

    . Bontekoning b,1

    ic Management, Vrije Universiteit Brussel,

    sels 1050, Belgium

    atial Organisation, Research Institute OTB,

    arch 153 (2004) 400416

    www.elsevier.com/locate/dswof the terminal to terminal transport. At the

    other end of the transport chain the shipment is


  • covered by those channels. We also performed a

    urnaltranshipped from train to truck and delivered by

    truck to the receiver. The trucking part of the

    transport chain is called drayage, pre- and end-

    haulage or pick-up and delivery. Instead of rail

    transport between the terminals transport by barge

    also is possible. The transport between two ter-

    minals is called the long haul. For a comprehen-

    sive description of intermodal freight transport seeMuller (1999).

    Intermodal freight transport is only just starting

    to be researched seriously. Since 1990 a substantial

    number of analytical publications specically ad-

    dressing intermodal transport issues have appeared

    (see Bontekoning et al., in press). Various inter-

    modal freight transport decision problems demand

    models to help in the application of operation re-search techniques. However, the use of OR in in-

    termodal transport research is still limited. The

    intermodal transport system is more complex to

    model than the mono-modal one and thus more

    dicult to research. This gives very interesting and

    challenging tasks for the OR practitioners.

    Our contribution attempts to provide a com-

    prehensive overview of the use of operations re-search (OR) in intermodal freight research and to

    Road haul


    Rail haul

    Shippers or Receivers


    Road haul

    Fig. 1. A typical representation of roadrail intermodal freight


    C. Macharis, Y.M. Bontekoning / European Joelaborate a research agenda for the application

    and development of OR techniques in intermodal

    freight transport research. Essentially, we want to

    answer the following questions:

    What makes the problems in intermodal freight

    transport research interesting for OR scientists? Which OR techniques have been applied, and

    for which problems?

    Have these techniques been applied appropri-

    ately? Are there alternative approaches to the

    same problem?physical search of the collection in the Delft Uni-

    versity of Technology library, which holds the

    largest collection of transportation literature in the

    Netherlands. In addition we included research we

    already knew about from informal contacts with

    other researchers, as well as our own research.Finally, we retrieved studies by tracking the re-

    search cited in the literature that we had already

    obtained (ancestry approach). Most channels

    cover the period from 1988 to 2002, with the ex-

    ception of the electronic journals, the Dissertation

    Abstracts database, research of informal contacts

    and our own research. These channels cover the To what extent do the specic problems of inter-

    modal transport contribute to the overall devel-

    opment of OR techniques?

    Section 2 describes our review procedure and the

    set-up of a classication of OR techniques applied

    in intermodal transport. In the subsequent sections

    (from 3 to 6) this classication is followed. Foreach actor in the intermodal transport system a

    general problem description is given, followed by

    the review of problems investigated and OR tech-

    niques applied in intermodal research.

    2. Approach

    We have performed a scientic literature re-

    view. We chose a computerised search, due to itsspeed and eciency. However, we must note that

    electronic sources such as databases have limited

    coverage. Their earliest date is 1988. Nevertheless,

    this relatively short period of coverage is not really

    a signicant bias in our review, as we presume that

    the majority of the intermodal literature has beenpublished in the last ten years. We used a number

    of channels when choosing our studies, in order to

    avoid bias in the coverage. As a preliminary step

    we searched the following databases: Transport,

    Dissertation Abstracts, and the (Social) Sciences

    Citation Index (SCI). However, the databases and

    SCI do not contain all journals; therefore, we

    performed a separate search of the electronicjournals concerning transportation which were not

    of Operational Research 153 (2004) 400416 401period from 1995 to 2002. Appendix A provides

  • decision problems involved. In each section the

    urnala detailed overview of the channels we investi-gated.

    In the rst round of the research it appeared

    that the studies reviewed could be categorised using

    two criteria: (1) type of operator, and (2) time

    horizon of operations problem. Based on the four

    main activities in intermodal transport we have

    distinguished the following operators:

    drayage operators, who take care of the plan-ning and scheduling of trucks between the ter-

    minal and the shippers and receivers;

    terminal operators, who take care of the tran-shipment operations from road to rail or barge,

    or from rail to rail or barge to barge;

    network operators, who take care of the infra-structure planning and the organisation of railor barge transport;

    intermodal operators, who can be considered asusers of the inter modal infrastructure and ser-

    vices, and take care of the route selection for

    a shipment through the whole intermodal net-


    These operators face operational problems withdierent time horizons. Strategic, tactical and op-

    erational problems can be distinguished. In the

    strategic level, decisions are found on a very long

    term (1020 years). The location of terminals, the

    network congurations and the design and layout

    of a terminal are typically decisions were a large

    amount of capital is xed for a long time and that

    are dicult to change. The tactical levels involvesa time period of months/weeks. Finally, at the

    operational level, day-to-day or even real-time

    decisions are made.

    The combination of these two categories pro-

    vides a classication matrix with twelve categories

    of intermodal operations problems (see Table 1).

    The classication is not exhaustive and some de-

    cision problems can be faced by several decisionmakers and can be relevant for the same decision

    maker at the dierent time horizons. However, the

    decision problems have been placed in the classi-

    cation matrix of Table 1 were they were most

    prominent. The studies reviewed have been as-

    signed to one of the categories, which provides a

    402 C. Macharis, Y.M. Bontekoning / European Jostructured overview of the type of OR problems inindividual contribution to the general problem

    statement of the paper reviewed is discussed.

    Here, the categorisation along the time horizon is


    3. Drayage operator: OR problems and applications

    3.1. General problem statement

    Drayage operations involve the provision of an

    empty trailer or container to the shipper and thesubsequent transportation of a full trailer or con-

    tainer to the terminal. The empty container may be

    picked up either at the terminal, at an empty depot

    or at a receiver. Delivery operations involve the

    distribution of a full container or trailer from the

    terminal to a receiver, followed by the collection of

    the empty container/trailer and its transportation

    to the terminal, an empty depot, or a shipper. Thepossibility of separation of tractor and trailer al-

    lows two procedures: stay-with and drop-and-

    pick. In the stay-with procedure, the tractor and

    driver stay with the trailer/container during load-

    ing and/or unloading. In the drop-and-pick proce-

    dure, a full or empty trailer/container is dropped ointermodal transport. The number of studies thatrequire decisions from more than one operator

    and/or more time horizons are very limited. This is

    already an important conclusion of the survey.

    Intermodal transport, by denition, involves many

    decision makers who all need to work in collabo-

    ration in order for the system to run smoothly. If

    intermodal transport is to be developed it will re-

    quire more decision-making support tools to assistthe many actors and stakeholders involved in the

    operation. A very good attempt at outlining these

    tools can be found in the paper of Van Duin and

    Van Ham (2001) where a three-level modelling

    approach is followed in order to take account of

    the dierent goals of the dierent stakeholders.

    Table 1 is used to structure the review of the

    papers in the following sections. Each sectionstarts with a general problem statement, which

    provides a description of the intermodal opera-

    tions related to the type of decision maker and

    of Operational Research 153 (2004) 400416at the shipper/receiver. During loading/unloading,

  • urnalTable 1

    Overview of publications reviewedby research category

    Decision maker Time horizon

    C. Macharis, Y.M. Bontekoning / European Jothe tractor and driver are free to carry out otheractivities.

    An intermodal terminal may be used by a large

    number of drayage companies (a dozen or even

    Strategic T

    Drayage operator Co-operation between drayage




    Spasovic (1990) T

    Walker (1992)

    Morlok and Spasovic (1994)

    Morlok et al. (1995)

    Truck and chassis eet size P


    Terminal operator Terminal design C


    Ferreira and Sigut (1995) K

    Meyer (1998) B

    Van Duin and Van Ham





    Network operator Infrastructure network congu-




    Crainic et al. (1990) J

    Loureiro (1994) J

    Jourquin et al. (1999) N

    Southworth and Peterson



    Location of terminals T

    Rutten (1995) N

    Meinert et al. (1998)

    Van Duin and Van Ham


    Arnold and Thomas (1999) P

    Groothedde and Tavasszy



    Macharis and Verbeke (1999) T

    Intermodal operator n.a. n

    Source: own setup.of Operational Research 153 (2004) 400416 403more). Each drayage company faces a trip sched-uling problem with trips between shippers, re-

    ceivers and one or more terminals meeting several

    requirements, such as customers pre-specied

    actical Operational

    llocation of shippers and re-

    eiver locations to a terminal

    Redistribution of trailer chassis

    and load units

    aylor et al. (2002) Justice (1996)

    ricing strategies Scheduling of truck trips

    pasovic and Morlok (1993) Wang and Regan (2002)

    apacity levels of equipment

    nd labour

    Allocation of capacity to jobs

    emper and Fischer (2000)

    ostel and Dejax (1998)

    edesign of operational rou-

    ines and layout structures

    Scheduling of jobs

    oges et al. (1994)

    onguration consolidation


    Load order of trains

    ourquin et al. (1999) Feo and Gonzaalez-Velarde


    anicc et al. (1999) Powell and Carvalho (1998)ewman and Yano (2000a)

    ewman and Yano (2000b)

    ype of production model Redistribution of railcars,

    barges and load units

    ozick and Morlok (1997) Chih and van Dyke (1987)

    Chih et al. (1990)

    Bostel and Dejax (1998)

    ricing strategy

    an et al. (1995)

    sai et al. (1994)

    .a. Selection of routing and service

    Barnhart and Ratli (1993)

    Boardman et al. (1997)

  • urnalpick-up and delivery times (time-windows), on-road travel times, and realistic limits on the length

    of the working day. Most shipments are known

    about in advance. Only a fraction of loads in a

    given are short notice. However, loads must

    sometimes be reassigned due to trac, dock and

    intermodal terminal delays. In addition, time must

    be allocated for local trailer chassis distribution.

    Drayage companies carry out trips from and toseveral nearby terminals in an area. For example,

    in North-America trailer chassis are pooled over

    several terminals in a region. At each terminal

    sucient chassis should be available. Due to im-

    balances in ows, empty chassis need to be redis-

    tributed from terminals with abundant chassis to

    terminals with a shortage.

    The general problem of drayage operations isits cost eectiveness. Despite the relatively short

    distance of the truck movement compared to the

    rail or barge haul, drayage accounts for a large

    percentage (between 25% and 40%) of origin to

    destination expenses. High drayage costs seriously

    aect the protability of an intermodal service,

    and also limit the markets in which it can compete

    with road transport (see Spasovic and Morlok,1993; Morlok and Spasovic, 1994; Morlok et al.,

    1995). Consequently, alternative, less costly oper-

    ations need to be designed.

    3.2. OR applications for strategic problems

    Spasovic (1990), Morlok and Spasovic (1994)

    and Morlok et al. (1995) investigate whether cen-tral planning of all pick-up and delivery trips of

    several drayage companies in one terminal-service

    area can reduce drayage costs. They examine the

    impact of a centralised planning on the total eet

    size and utilisation. The objective being to mini-

    mise total cost of tractor and tractor-trailer



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