Intermodal Transportation and Innovations

Subject: Transportation
Pages: 4
Words: 856
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College


The transportation system is a crucial contributor to the economy of any country. This sector is managed privately, or the government is involved. It is argued that the transportation industry in a free market economy does little in encouraging innovations that contribute to the growth of the nation (Konings, Priemus, & Nijkamp, 2008). This paper will illustrate various historical examples that justify the importance of the government’s effort in identifying innovations that are useful in intermodal transportation.

Research and Innovations

There are good examples of how the private sector and government took charge of innovations in intermodal transportation in the past. The private sector in the US was tasked with developing the railroad in the US in the 19th century, and during the early years of the 20th century (Konings et al., 2008). Unfortunately, the sector contributed only a small fraction of the research that could benefit the transportation system.

On the contrary, Konings et al. (2008) report that there was a significant change when the federal and state governments decided to take part in the research on intermodal transportation. In addition, more research started to be carried out by the universities that were funded by the government.

Konings et al. (2008) point out that research is necessary because different objectives are usually introduced into each research, and more innovations in the sector are identified as a result. Since the 20th century, several agencies have contributed to transportation-related research, as pointed out by Konings et al. (2008). Such agencies include the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Konings et al. (2008) explain that the NSF has already sponsored various high-risk and high payoff research projects, mainly in the freight transportation that had not been financed before. The USDOT is reported to have spent $192 million in the year 2001 to support research and other related contracts. A significant portion of the funds from the USDOT was channeled to the FHWA in a move aimed at improving the surface transport system.

Konings et al. (2008) continue to narrate that the FHWA focuses research geared towards improving materials that are of high quality, as well as the design of roads. It is worth noting that the FHWA also funded a National Freight Dialogue that was supposed to strengthen the private-public dialogue among the participants concerned with the movement of freight.

There have been researches conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), especially on road safety. These and many other studies that have been funded by the government illustrate why the government should always be at the forefront in identifying potential innovations necessary in the development of the road system (Konings et al., 2008).

Private Transportation Industries in a Free Market Economy

In the past, private sectors enjoyed a free market where the government did not involve itself widely in the transportation industry. However, a lot of innovations were not implemented by the transportation sector, but it engaged in different unhealthy competitions and selfish activities, as revealed by Konings et al. (2008). A good example of this scenario is what happened towards the end of the 1870s.

During that period, the railroads in the US were in such a bad state that the anti-price-discrimination laws were abolished after the private sector failed to take care of the rails (Konings et al. 2008). The explanation for that kind of a scenario is that the moment private freight companies use the public right-of-way, then those companies assume that their concerns are tabled poorly by the State Department of Transportation (Konings et al., 2008).

The US truck transportation system is established firmly. Many individual truck owners have emerged over the years and developed several truck associations (Konings et al., 2008). Some of the associations include the American Trucking Association, the New Jersey Truck Association, and the New York Motor Truck Association. Konings et al. (2008) reveal that these associations constantly advocate the policies that are of benefit to the members.

The groups have been contributing significantly towards ensuring that the trucks of their members do not deliver less-than-truckloads, which is a positive contribution of the private sector. More often than not, the plans of the private investors in the transportation sector differ from what agencies in the public domain intended for the advancement of the system.

Konings et al. (2008) illustrate that the private sector has plans that are as short as two weeks, with their longest projects taking just six months. Such short programs normally have little impact on the innovations of intermodal transportation. On the contrary, the plans of government projects take as long as five years or more; thus, they identify innovations that are relevant to this field (Konings et al., 2008).


To a certain extent, the private sector has contributed to the transportation system in the US. However, the industry has failed considerably in funding research projects that are necessary for identifying innovations that can lead to an improved transportation network. On the other hand, the government has proven useful in funding research projects; thus, it should be involved in the innovations in intermodal transportation.


Konings, R., Priemus, H. & Nijkamp, P. (2008). Future of intermodal freight transport: Operations, design and policy. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.