Opportunities for OR in intermodal freight transport research: A review

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  • nte: A

    .M

    trateg

    , 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

    ed.

  • 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

    Terminal

    Rail haul

    Shippers or Receivers

    Terminal

    Road haul

    Fig. 1. A typical representation of roadrail intermodal freight

    transport.

    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-

    work.

    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 p

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