A real-time synchromodal framework with co-planning for routing of containers and vehicles

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This paper considers a decentralized container transport system in which two decision-makers are involved in getting a container from its origin to its destination: a logistics service provider (LSP) and a flexible service operator (FSO). While the LSP receives shipment requests from shippers and controls the movement of containers over a multimodal network by booking scheduled (e.g., barges and trains) and flexible services (e.g., trucks) from service operators, the FSO manages a fleet of vehicles (e.g., trucks) that have flexible routes and departure times to fulfill the transport requests proposed by the LSP. In the literature, most of the studies focus on either container routing, by assuming all services have fixed routes and trucks are unlimited, or vehicle routing in a road network. This paper investigates the integrated problems of routing containers and vehicles through a multimodal network from a decentralized perspective considering the decision authorities of the LSP and the FSO. A synchromodal framework is designed to control the decision process which enables to utilize the benefits of real-time mode and route changes. To investigate the impact of communication, we develop a co-planning method under the synchromodal framework to coordinate the transport plans between the LSP and the FSO in real-time. The co-planning method considers a realistic level of information exchange and adheres to no changes in their responsibilities and authorities compared to current practice. The performance of the co-planning method is evaluated under various scenarios. The experimental results show that co-planning, using expected transport request fulfillment as feedback, reduces the total costs of container transportation and decreases the distance traveled by flexible vehicles under most of the scenarios.