Freight transport

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Container semitrailer
freight train
Loading a cargo plane

Freight is called the non-company transport ( transport ) of goods of all kinds on the roads road , rail , water and air , according to referred to as road freight , rail freight , cargo shipping and air freight . It is part of commercial traffic . Appropriate means of transport are trucks , freight trains , inland and seagoing vessels and cargo planes . These use the transport infrastructure . Freight transport is the subject of knowledge in various disciplines, including transport science . It is the object of transport policy and traffic law .

Cargo transport takes place between operations by means of pipes and pipelines (see also pneumatic tube and CargoCap ) instead of and in the internal transport ( conveying ) with material flow technology as material ropeways , lifts , conveyors , cranes , circular conveyors and the like. These are also used for cargo handling within (inter-company) transport chains .

Structure of freight transport

Freight traffic is primarily used to transport between production, trade (wholesale and retail, see also road haulage ) and end consumers. As part of the production process, internal transports take place as factory traffic . In the past, a distinction was made between local and long-distance freight transport . There were numerous regulations for long-distance freight transport; these were lifted with the liberalization in 1993.

In the freight is in the manner of conveyed material ( general cargo , bulk , liquid or gas transport , transport of solids) and to package size (small articles, bulk, heavy; oversize heavy load ) differentiated.

Local transport

The designation “ local transport ” will continue to be used colloquially for transports that take place within a radius of 50 km from the transshipment warehouse . The area between 51 km and 150 km is designated as regional traffic, over 151 km distance is referred to as long-distance traffic. With the transport law reform have been abolished in 1998 in Germany, the previously valid regulations for freight traffic (in goods transport in Austria since 1991) Urban transport is beyond compare vehicles of load wheels and vans on lorries up to 7.5  t gross vehicle weight , some with lift until towards trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 12 t. Most is delivery and collection traffic to and from the nearest depot, a distinction being made in advance or on delivery in overrun . This includes the distribution of fresh goods to branches of retail chains. Construction site traffic is also part of local traffic.

Long-distance transport

Transports over 151 km are assigned to long-distance transport . A variant of long-distance traffic on the road ( road haulage ) is the regular service , or also intra-German forwarder groupage traffic , in which groupage consignments are regularly returned from the point of departure to the destination and other consignments. The shipping forwarder has shipments transported to the receiving forwarder. The destination of the shipment can either be the transshipment warehouse of the receiving freight forwarder or a logistics center (HUB: Hub and Spoke ). A variant of the regular traffic on the road is the two-way traffic . Here, two vehicles meet en route to exchange their transport containers, such as swap bodies or semi-trailers . Then each of the vehicles drives back to the starting point.

In addition to regular traffic, there is tramp traffic on the road, in which partial and full loads are driven to the destinations and the return load does not return the vehicle directly to the starting point. The freight forwarder's vehicle dispatcher looks for suitable return loads at the destination, which will bring the vehicle back to the starting point, the depot , via intermediate delivery points by the weekend . The search for cargo is usually carried out via national and international Internet freight exchanges .

Importance of freight transport

Transport performance of commercial goods traffic (excluding company traffic, in million ton kilometers) in Germany by type of traffic: road (red), rail (green), inland waterway transport (blue).
Distribution of freight transport in Germany in 2010 according to transport performance: road (red), rail (green), inland waterway transport (blue), pipelines (gray)

In Germany, commercial freight transport is recorded by surveys by the Federal Statistical Office. In addition to the transport quantities, the transport performance is also balanced as the product of (net) mass and distance and stated in the unit ton × km (tkm). The traffic performance is not a performance in the physical sense, since it does not represent work in a unit of time. The term has established itself in the figurative sense for labeling.

In 2010, 4.07 billion tons were transported in commercial goods traffic in Germany - not including transit traffic . That corresponded to around 50 tons per inhabitant. Of these, 76% were transported by truck, 9% by rail, 7% by ocean-going vessel, 6% by inland waterway, 2% via pipelines (crude oil) and 0.1% by air. In 2010, the share of transport services shifted somewhat from trucks to railways and inland waterway vessels. In terms of transport performance, trucks account for 63% of commercial goods transport, 22% for railways and 12% for inland waterways.

In 2014, the volume moved in freight traffic amounted to 4.5 billion tons, which was a record in Germany. Around 3.5 billion t of this was carried by trucks, 365 million t by rail, 301 million t by sea shipping and 229 million t by inland shipping.

In the 1980s, the ton-kilometers of truck transport in Switzerland exceeded those of the railways.

Development of freight transport

A look at the development of the individual modes of transport shows that, above all, technological developments in the individual modes of transport have influenced the structure, the volume of goods transported and the goods transport performance. Only they made the current freight transport performance possible in terms of quantity and range. Transport systems and their basic structure are long-lived. The basic functions of the modes of transport used today have not changed since their invention. Numerous factors and developments have an impact on the development of the individual modes of transport and / or have an impact on freight transport performance and freight transport volume. In addition to driving / promoting factors, there are also inhibiting / hindering factors.

Transport technology

Transshipment between railroad and truck with roll-off container transport system (ACTS)

The invention of the steam engine made it possible to transport larger quantities of goods faster than before economically. Equally important inventions that changed the transport of goods were the invention of the internal combustion engine and the invention of the cooling system, which made it possible to transport perishable goods over long distances. These inventions also mark the beginning of the dependence of the modes of transport on fossil fuels. The driving forces behind the development of transport systems with an impact on the transport of goods can be named:

  • Quantity and quality of the hardware of the transport systems (means of transport, infrastructure, superstructure )
  • technological development of the hardware of the transport systems

economic aspects

Transport with excess length and excess width with two support vehicles

The transport of goods and its structure is also conditioned and driven by the system-related properties of the modes of transport, their current status and their development, just as every system is determined by its properties:

  • Cost structure of the modes of transport (fixed costs / variable costs)
  • Transport costs (prices for the transport of goods)
  • legal provisions regarding the modes of transport

The prices of fuels play an important role here . Some fuels are taxed, others are not ( aviation fuel ). Economic changes, which arise primarily due to increasing globalization, have an impact on the development of goods transport. Driving factors include:

  • Degree of division of labor and specialization
  • Quality and quantity of goods produced
  • spatial location of production sites
  • spatial location of the economic system
  • Trade relations between nations (imports and exports)
  • Degree of logistical processes (warehousing vs. just-in-time production)
  • legal provisions regarding trade relations (e.g. customs duties)
  • technological developments of products and production conditions

Central versus decentralized production

The modern technologies of local production include generative manufacturing processes , possibly in the form of rapid production . With advances in the development of 3D printers , production is expected to become increasingly local. In the economic decision between centralized and decentralized production, wage differentials between regions always play a role (historically, see the publishing system ). Economic associations of consumers and local producers can promote structures of local production (see e.g. agricultural community court ). At the same time, considerations of traffic ecology and environmental policy play a role, since a lengthening of the transport routes results in environmental pollution . ( See also: regional economy , land consumption - economic consequences )


In addition to economic and technological factors, social processes of demographic structure, spatial structure and social changes with regard to the value system also affect the demand for freight transport services. On the one hand, there is a change in the framework conditions for the handling of freight traffic, which affects its structure. On the other hand, the demand for goods transport increases or decreases due to changes in social structures, since goods transport is a service and not a production. Driving forces in the social area are:

  • population
  • Distribution of the population
  • Degree of urbanization
  • technological developments in general (information and communication technology)
  • political framework and programs
  • Living standards of the population
  • Ecological problems

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Federal Statistical Office: Transport at a Glance , Series 8, Series 1.2, Wiesbaden.
  2. Peter Kleinort: Record volume of goods traffic in Germany · Roads and shipping are growing · Strikes burden rail transports . In: Daily port report of February 16, 2015, p. 1.
  3. ^ Philipp von Cranach: Traffic. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . January 15, 2014 , accessed March 8, 2020 .
  4. ^ Christian F. Durach, Stefan Kurpjuweit, Stephan M. Wagner: The impact of additive manufacturing on supply chains . In: International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management . tape 47 , no. 10 , 25 September 2017, ISSN  0960-0035 , p. 954–971 , doi : 10.1108 / ijpdlm-11-2016-0332 ( [accessed January 2, 2018]).