Source: Adapted from Woxenius, J. (2002) Conceptual Modelling of an Intermodal Express Transport System, International Congress on Freight Transport Automation and Multimodality: Delft, The Netherlands.
Depending on the concerned freight distribution system, several service network configurations are possible:
- Point-to-point distribution is common when specialized and specific one-time orders have to be satisfied, which often creates less-than-full-load as well as empty backhaul problems. The logistical requirements of such a structure are minimal, but at the expense of efficiency.
- Corridor structures of distribution often link high-density agglomerations with services such as the landbridge where container trains link seaboards. Traffic along the corridor can be loaded or unloaded at local/regional distribution centers, acting as load centers in this distribution system.
- Hub-and-spoke networks have mainly emerged with air freight distribution and with high throughput distribution centers favored by parcel services. Such a structure is made possible only if the hub has the capacity to handle large amounts of time-sensitive consignments. The logistical requirements of a hub-and-spoke structure are consequently extensive as efficiency is dominantly derived at the hub’s terminal. Commonly, a major distribution center located at the hub will have privileged access to a terminal.
- Routing networks tend to use circuits where freight can be transshipped from one route to the other at specific hubs. Inter-range networks characterizing many container shipping services are relevant examples of relatively fixed routing distribution networks. Achieving flexible routing is a complex network strategy requiring a high level of logistical integration as routes and hubs shift depending on anticipated variations of the integrated freight transport demand. Flexible routing is mostly used in last mile parcel services where the routing of delivery trucks is depending on a shifting demand landscape.