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Modes of transport

This information is provided by:Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVKNetherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVKNederlandse versie

Moving goods from one country to another is called transport. There are various transport modes, or ways to transport goods. This article explains these modes and lists their pros and cons.

What is the right mode of transport for you?

You can transport goods:

  • by road
  • by rail
  • over water
  • by air

What transport mode is right for you depends on various factors, such as the type of goods, the speed of the mode of transport, and the costs. Each mode requires a different transport document.

Road transport

Land transport is a good option for small quantities of goods. Shipping goods by road is usually fast and flexible, as lorries will often deliver the goods straight to your customer’s doorstep. Still, traffic jams can cause significant delays. Plus, other EU member states or non-EU countries may have their own rules on road transport, such as driving bans for lorries. In Germany, for example, lorries are not allowed on the roads on Sundays and public holidays.

Rail transport

Rail transport is especially suitable for bulk goods such as coal and iron ore, as well as for cars and food. It is cheaper than road transport, but railroads and stations cannot be found everywhere. After goods have been transported by rail, they usually have to complete the final stretch by road. This costs both time and money.

Sea transport and inland shipping

Sea transport and inland shipping are not fast, but are often cheaper than other modes such as air transport. It is a sustainable form of transport and suitable for almost any product. Keep in mind that not all cities and towns can easily be reached by water. You will still need to arrange road transport to get the goods to their destination. This takes longer and costs more. On top of that, it can be difficult to estimate the total shipping time.

Air transport

Air transport is fast and covers long distances. It is useful for perishable goods such as fruit or flowers. Insurance on air transport is usually cheaper, but aircraft capacity is limited and costs are relatively high. As with water transport, you will still need to transport the goods to their destination, for example by road. This means extra costs.

Transport agreement

You need different transport documents for different modes of transport. A transport document is an agreement between you and the transporter. Upon payment of the transport costs, the transporting company will arrange for the goods to be shipped to a specific location in accordance with specific terms and conditions. Find out more about transport documents.

Need help?

Do you have little or no experience in international business? A forwarding agent can help you arrange the various phases of transportation, such as transport to and from the port, transfer at the terminal, clearing customs, and loading the goods onto a ship. Find out more about transporters and forwarding agents.

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