Freight transport concepts

Especially freight traffic depends on efficient and sustainable means of transport and processes. Freight transport is becoming increasingly important, with information exchange and communication playing a prominent role. The holistic view of logistics structures and processes and their challenges is also getting more and more relevant.

Intelligent freight transport concepts enable self-controlled traffic using innovative and forward-looking technologies. By transferring innovative technologies and principles of Industry 4.0 to off-site freight transport, completely new possibilities for process control and optimization are opening up to the actors along the transport chain. In this way, players in the transport sector can work together effectively and increase effectiveness and efficiency. The Commercial Transport WG offers research and consulting services in six relevant areas:

  • Transport Logistics 4.0 / Freight Mobility 4.0
  • Planning & optimization of transports
  • Synchromodal freight transport
  • Digitization / IoT in transport
  • Process data analysis (city) logistics
  • Digital CT terminal of the future

Planning & optimization of transports

© Fraunhofer IVI
© Fraunhofer IVI
© Fraunhofer IVI

Despite the already closely interlocked processes in production, loading and delivery, there is often a deviation between plan and realization in practical route planning. In order to achieve optimal capacity utilization, route and production planning must be optimally coordinated. In addition, for non-standardized goods, there is often a lack of knowledge in the planning phase as to which order combinations take up how much loading space. Therefore, estimates are used and buffers are planned for safety reasons, which leads to empty spaces in the vehicles and an unnecessarily number of tours.

The Commercial Transport WG investigates the possibilities of linking the planning levels in production, loading space and route planning and analyzes correlations from experience in order to enable robust and realistic planning. Furthermore, the development of solution algorithms can optimize cargo space planning for non-standardized goods and individual loading methods. 

Example Projects:

TrueLoad (Fraunhofer IVI [German]): Customized cargo space optimization

OptiCap (Fraunhofer IVI [German]): Interaction of route and production planning

Synchro-Net (Fraunhofer IVI [German]): Risk assessment for multimodal transport chains.

TOTARI (Fraunhofer IVI [German]): Route planning with travel times dependent on the time of day.

Process data analysis (city) logistics

© Fraunhofer IAO
Electric box van in parcel delivery in Hamburg
© Fraunhofer IAO
Electric cargo bike in parcel delivery in Stuttgart
© Fraunhofer IAO
Small electric vehicle in general cargo delivery in Stuttgart

Rising traffic volumes, pollutant emissions and growing e-commerce in cities are increasingly bringing commercial transport into the focus of citizens and politicians. Logistics companies are more and more forced to use locally emission-free delivery vehicles to supply urban areas. The range of commercial vehicles here extends from fuel cell-powered trucks and battery-electric box vans to maneuverable cargo bicycles in courier and parcel delivery. Some of the characteristics of these vehicles differ enormously from those of conventional ones. For example, electric vehicles usually have to be recharged overnight, have a limited range, and often have a smaller loading space than vehicles with internal combustion engines. For this reason, logistics companies and vehicle manufacturers are already testing in various pilot projects what effects the use of these electric vehicles will have on the inner-city delivery process.

On behalf of vehicle manufacturers and logistics companies, Fraunhofer IAO is supporting the use of alternative vehicles on the last mile in implementation projects. The process data collected and evaluated semi-automatically in this context in  will help to make commercial transport sustainable and efficient in the future as well.

Example projects:

Process data in city logistics (Fraunhofer IAO): In the project, data of inner-city logistics processes were collected and analyzed in order to define future commercial vehicle specifications.

ZUKUNFT.DE (Fraunhofer IAO): In this project, the use of battery-electric pre-production and series production vehicles in parcel delivery is scientifically monitored and evaluated.

FAT Studie (Fraunhofer IAO): On behalf of the Research Association for Automotive Technology of the German Automotive Industry Association (VDA), Fraunhofer IAO analyzes user requirements for battery-electric charging infrastructures as well as refueling infrastructures for hydrogen. The focus here is on the integration of refueling and charging processes into the delivery processes of logistics companies and the simulation of charging processes, their energy supply and network connection.

logSPAZE (Fraunhofer IAO): In the logSPAZE project, the possible uses of inner-city transshipment areas in combination with cargo bicycles are being tested and scientifically supported by Fraunhofer.


Feasibility study on the digital CT terminal of the future

© tuastockphoto -

Combined transport (CT) makes an important contribution to a sustainable freight transport concept due to the resource-saving and environmentally friendly handling of long-distance freight transport. The cost-effectiveness of combined transport depends to a decisive extent on optimum intersections between the modes of transport in the transport chain. However, the processes in a combined transport transhipment terminal are becoming more and more complex and demanding due to a large number of participants, increasing volumes in the transport industry, and limited resources in terms of staff and space. The project therefore aims to consider approaches to optimizing CT terminals against the background of these challenges.

In the feasibility study on the »digital CT terminal of the future«, various digitization approaches for optimizing a combined transport handling terminal will be tested and evaluated. Here, rail- and road-side handling processes, transshipment processes as well as the terminal-internal resource planning are taken into account. By demonstrating the business and technological potential, the aim is to improve efficiency through a higher degree of automation, increasing process transparency and greater planning reliability in the combined transport terminal. The individual digitization approaches will then be brought together in a holistic concept of the »digital CT terminal of the future«.

Intelligent freight transport through Freight Mobility 4.0

© eyetronic -

Freight mobility enables self-controlled transports using innovative and forward-looking technologies. New opportunities for process control and optimization are opening up to actors along the transport chain by transferring innovative technologies and principles of Industry 4.0 to off-site freight transport. In this way, players in the transportation sector can collaborate effectively and increase efficiency. Building blocks of Freight Mobility 4.0 are fully automated mobility systems, including the use of electromobility to improve urban commercial transport, augmented reality, synchromodality (self-steering loading units), highly automated driving in freight transport, and intelligent infrastructure (smart infrastructure) as well as data-based tools and products.

The Fraunhofer Commercial Transport WG develops application-specific solutions for market studies, application potentials, migration strategies and process optimization.

Example projects:

Innovationlab Hybrid Services in Logistics (Project page, Fraunhofer IML) - Innovation lab for the design and analysis of new forms of services as well as human-technology interactions.

Smart Container Chain Management (Brochure PDF, Fraunhofer IML [German]) - Project, funded by the European Commission, to develop a modern, cost-reducing as well as safety- and efficiency-increasing management of maritime containers.

 Image of the future »Logistik und Mobilität in Hessen 2035« (Project page, Fraunhofer IML [German]) - Study in cooperation with HOLM GmbH to create a future image of logistics and mobility in Hesse in 2035.

Transport logistics 4.0

© industrieblick -

In the overlapping area of transport and logistics with digitization, automation, use of technology and innovative concepts, Transport Logistics 4.0 is emerging. Here, data is collected and evaluated during loading and unloading as well as from transport processes and converted into a digital image in real time. This data is then linked with additional information from IT or camera systems and sensors in order to derive measures in real time or build self-controlling subsystems. The goal is efficient, decentrally organized, flexible and agile transport processing.

The interlinking and networking of all process participants is becoming a key factor for the future planning of transport processes in logistics services, industry and trade. In the "Transport Logistics 4.0" project, the Fraunhofer Commercial Transport WG is creating an overview of technologies and concepts in use, identifying the implementation status and the first waves of implementation of Transport Logistics 4.0.