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17.5.        National classifications of modes of transport. IMTS 2010 (para. 7.2) encourages countries to use the main categories (one-digit) of the above classification and, if countries so wish, the detailed (two- or three-digit) categories. However, the above classification is not intended to limit the flexibility of countries with respect to implementing a detailed national classification according to their own requirements. Whatever classification is followed, it is recommended that countries clearly describe in their metadata the contents of the categories used. Depending on their national requirements, countries may wish to compile mode of transport at the one-, two- or three-digit level or create even more detailed breakdowns for use in the compilation and reporting of the trade statistics by mode of transport. Confidentiality rules may significantly affect the level at which MoT detail can be published. 

17.6.        It is good practice to adopt a national classification that could be easily reconciled with the international classification, at least at the level of the main categories. In particular, it should be made clear whether postal consignments, mail or courier shipments and self-propelled goods are separately classified or included in the main categories of air, water and land. The category 4.4 “Other” is to be used when the available information does not allow an attribution of a given transaction to any of the specific mode-of-transport categories. 

17.7.        Description of mode-of-transport categories. A description of MoT categories is provided in annex 17.A to this chapter based on the Illustrated Glossary for Transport Statistics (4th ed. 2009),[3] prepared by the Intersecretariat Working Group (IWG Transport) comprising representatives of ECE, the International Transport forum and Eurostat. Countries can use these descriptions when defining the components of their national mode-of-transport classification. 

17.8.        Multimodal transport. The term “multimodal transport” can be used in the case where goods are carried by at least two different modes of transport, from a place within or at the border of the exporting country, at which the goods are taken in charge by a transport operator to a place designated for delivery in the importing country[4]. This is in accordance with the definition of international multimodal transport in article 1(1) of the United Nations Convention on International Multimodal Transport of Goods (24 May 1980) (which, however, is not yet in force). If a country identifies th transport of certain goods as multimodal, it is good practice for it to provide in the metadata information of how multimodal transport is defined, identified and recorded. However, it should be pointed out that IMTS 2010 (para. 7.4) recommends the recording of multiple modes of transports, depending on a country’s needs and circumstances. The recording of a separate category “Multimodal transport” is not suggested and accordingly not part of the suggested classification of MoT. 

17.9.        Predominant mode of transport. In certain cases, the information on MoT, defined as means of transport when entering the economic territory and derived from customs records, is not the most relevant information for analytical purposes; hence, some countries might wish to use the concept of the predominant mode of transport. IMTS 2010 (para. 7.4), suggests that the predominant mode of transport can, for example, be defined as the mode of transport that accounts for the majority of the transportation costs or the longest part of the route by distance. Countries should define such criteria and record predominant mode of transport in addition to the means of transport when entering and leaving the country as necessary (i.e., in the case of landlocked countries), taking into account their data needs and circumstances. It is good practice for the reasons and for the methodology of such a determination of MoT to be clearly explained in the trade statistics metadata. 

17.10.    Main data sources. The main data sources for the compilation of trade data by mode of transport are the same as those for the compilation of other trade data, i.e., customs records and the non-customs data sources described in chapters II-IV. However, countries might explore the possibility of using additional sources. It should be noted that although there is a strong correlation between point of entry and mode of transport, the attribution of MoT cannot be based on the identification of point of entry only, and it is good practice to use mode of transport as indicated in customs records[5].

17.11.    Potential additional data sources. Some additional data sources (e.g., carrier- and shipper-based sources) may contain useful supplementary information and can be used for verification and estimation purposes. 

17.12.    Estimation of mode of transport data. In many instances, adequate sources of data might be absent. If, however, there is a strong need for trade data by mode of transport, appropriate estimation procedures can be developed and used. It is suggested that sources of information for estimating MoT at different stages and levels of the compilation process be distinguished, depending on user requirements. MoT could be estimated at the initial data-collection stage on the microlevel based on additional documentation for individual transactions, or at later data compilation stages on the macrolevel, based, e.g., on enterprise surveys. 

17.13.    MoT and trade system. Under the general trade system, goods are recorded when they leave the economic territory of a country, which coincides with the condition for the recording of mode of transport (means of transportation when goods enter or leave the economic territory of country). Countries following the special trade system would usually compile information on MoT based on the mode of transport when goods enter or leave the statistical territory, which could be, for example, the mode used to transport goods from a customs warehouse into a free circulation area. This might, if significant, provide a misleading picture of a country’s MoT statistics. In this case countries might wish to consider presenting information on MoT in such a way as to take into account the fact that goods might have entered the statistical territory from free zones or customs warehouses. An appropriate explanation should be provided in trade statistics metadata.


[3] Eurostat Methodologies and Working Papers (Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2010). Available from

[4] See the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) document entitled “Implementation of multimodal transport rules” (UNDTAD/SDTE/TLB/2) of 27 June 2011. Available from

[5] In Brazil, MoT data are obtained from the entries in the field “unit of the customs boarding or unloading” of electronic documents for export and import of SISCOMEX.