O Level Revision : Commerce - Transport

Transport  moves/ferries/carries/transports/transfers/takes/carts  people  (workers, executives, buyers, sellers) and goods from one place to another.


-       Transport  moves/ferries/carries/transports/transfers/takes/carts  people  (workers, executives, buyers, sellers) and goods from one place to another.

-      It opens up new markets for raw materials and finished goods;

-      It brings into contact different people thus fostering friendship and understanding.

-      It reduces the gap between suppliers and buyers.


Transport determinants


  1. Distance

-     Road for short distances.

-     Air, rail and sea for long distances.


  1. Nature of goods

-     Small parcels could be sent by road or air e.g. jewellery, books, clothes.

-     Large items by road, rail, sea or air.

-     Bulky goods, e.g. timber, by road, rail or air.


  1. Value

-     Valuable goods e.g. gold, could be sent by a safe and fast means like air or road.

-     Require careful handling to avoid damage.


  1. Cost

-     Consignor uses economical mode of transport.

-     Urgency, fragility and safety take priority

-     Bulky cargo is cheaply sent by rail or sea.


  1. Speed/urgency

-     Fast for urgently needed products.

-     Products might be perishable or light e.g. flowers and spare parts.

-     Road and air are suitable as they are fast.


  1. Time

-     Related to speed/urgency.

-     Fixed departure time.

-     Fixed arrival time.

  1. Convenience

-     Adaptable to size, form, value or quality.

-     Collapsible containers available.

-     Adaptable to weather state.

-     Suitable for all types of terrain.


Modes of transport


  1. Road transport



-     Door to door delivery.

-     Carry goods direct from sender to receiver.

-     One loading and one offloading.

-     Less breakages and thefts.

-     Routes and time tables are flexible: time tables changeable at short notice;

routes can be altered at short notice.

-     Vehicles can take short routes and save time and money.

-      Suitable for small to abnormal loads as varieties, sizes and structures of vehicles are available: small cars, tankers, refrigerated vehicles, etc.

-     Can reach towns and remote rural areas.

-     Cheap over short distance.

-     Return loads possible.

-     Low road maintenance costs.

-     Driver can be conductor and loader.

-     Competition among operators leads to high quality service at low price.



-     Slow over long distance.

-     Bad weather slows its speed: rains, mist, hailstones.

-     Floods block roads and bridges; heat tear and wear vehicles parts.

-     Costly to carry bulk over long distance.

-     Many road users cause congestion and delays.

-     Accidents which are fatal and costly at times occur.

-     Insurance costs are high because of many accidents.

-     Causes pollution: air; noise; dust; water.


Advantages of having own fleet of vehicles

-     Carry goods to their shops fast.

-     Care for goods in transit.

-     Operate independently from public transport sector.

-     Avoid public transport strikes and sabotages.

-     Deliver purchases to customers timeously.

-     Contact with customers along the way.

-     Enable drivers to deliver goods, collect payments and carry empties.

-     Enable salespersons to travel fast and market the goods.

-     Ensures carriage of workers to and from business regularly.

-     Inscribe business name and logo on vehicle sides.

-     Advertise the business and its goods.

-     Enhance status of business.

-     Generate income by leasing out the vehicles.



-     Vehicles are costly to buy and maintain.

-     Are not always in use and drivers may not be economically employed.

-     Hiring, leasing or use of professional carriers is often a better option.


  1. Rail transport



-     Large carrying capacity: can have ten or more coaches.

-     Suitable for the carriage of bulky and heavy loads over long distances.

-     Carries bulk cheaply over long distances.

-     Fast: less stoppages; maintains even speed; electrified trains are fast.

-     Not affected by traffic congestion: trains are shunted; traffic robots control

movement of trains.

-      Fixed Timetables: guarantee departures and arrivals; assured timely delivery of goods and services.

-      Containerisation:  once  loading  and  once  offloading;  speedy  loading  and offloading of goods at sidings; reduces pilferage and breakages.

-     Less affected by bad weather.

-     Has bedding, toilets and shops for travellers` comfort and convenience

-     Access to ports.

-     Social costs: tracks are away from residential zones; less air and noise pollution.

-     Less accidents.



-     Inflexible: time tables and routes are rigid; trains are restricted to rail tracks;

trains stop at specified zones; breakdowns of trains bar traffic on the same track.

-     Speed: slow over short distances; loading and offloading of bulk at sidings

delay the train

-     Trans-shipment might result in delays.

-      Expensive: construction of tracks needs a large capital outlay; coaches are costly to buy; maintenance of the rail system is costly.

-      Inefficiency: monopolies or parastatals own the lines and may fail to run the railways; lack of competition might result in provision of shoddy services at high cost.

-      Accidents: are disastrous; costly to repair and pay for the losses; great damage to goods; environment destroyed.


  1. Sea transport


Types of vessels a)   Cargo liners

-     Run on fixed routes and fixed time-tables.

-     The exporter knows the times of departure and arrival of cargo liners,

-     Importers know when to expect delivery of the goods.

-      The cost of transport can be calculated in advance because the freight charges are published,

-     Goods which need careful handing can be sent by cargo liners.

  1. b) Tramps

-     Do not run on fixed time tables and fixed routes.

-     Are hired or chartered at freight markets for specific period i.e. time charter.

-     Receive information about their work by radio and through messages to the ship

crews and the crews find cargoes by themselves.

-      Are suitable for the carriage of goods that do not need careful handling e.g. iron ore.

-     Can deliver goods to ports not visited by cargo liners.

  1. c) Bulk carriers

-     Carry oil, bulk and ore (OBO).

-     Are large and achieve economies of scale and lower costs.

-     Have quick turn-around with loads, Roll on, Roll off (RORO)


Advantages of sea transport

-     Suitable for heavy and bulky goods.

-     Cheap over long distances.

-     Accessible to many seaports.

-     No tracks or roads are constructed.

-     Adaptable to carry varieties, sizes and quantities of products.


Disadvantages of sea transport

-     Bad weather, e.g. tides,  hinders or disrupts movement

-     Pilfering and sea piracy may occur.

-     Slow over short distance.

-     Delays at ports due to inadequate facilities.


Requirements of a seaport

-     Deep water

-     Shelter from weather and sea

-     A clear channel

-     Wharves

-     Communication via road, rail and air

-     Warehouses

-     Customs offices

-     Office space

-     Beira, Durban, Liverpool, Maputo are examples of seaports.


Seaport authorities

-     Control navigation in port waters: set lighthouses and marker buoys.

-     Maintain port facilities.

-     Ensure ships come safely into the harbor.

-     Provide and maintain deep-water wharves and control harbour traffic.

-     Survey and chart tideway.

-     Provide and maintain quay, cranes and yard gantry, cranes and forklifts.

-     Provide  fuel, fresh water, gas, free inspection services.

-     Provide dry docks and wet docks for repair of ships.

-     Provide fire brigade and security services to seaport area.

-     Licence all seaport workers.

-     Inspect sea fitness of ships brought to them.

-     Maintain general warehouses and bonded warehouses.

-     Maintain road and rail networks within the seaport area.


  1. Canal

-     Is a deep trench or channel cut through the land.

-     Water flows through it.



-     Canal usage is cheap.

-     Provides a smooth passage for fragile goods.

-     Canals are suitable for bulk cargoes.


  1. Air transport


-     Fast over short and long distances.

-     Speedy delivery of perishables and urgently needed cargo.

-     Reduces production delay.

-     Safe as goods are exposed to risk for a short time.

-     Less pilferage since goods are rarely handled.

-     Less danger of damage of goods.

-     Suitable for valuable and light goods.

-     Insurance costs are low - fast delivery reduces exposure to risks.

-     Less documentation – only an airway bill is required.

-     Fewer accidents.

-     Less air and noise pollution.

-     Large planes have been designed to carry bulky goods and many passengers.



-     High costs of equipment and running costs make it expensive.

-     May carry limited size and weight of goods.

-     Easily affected by bad weather.

-     Disastrous accidents.

-     Rigid timetables.

-     Rigid landing areas -needs large special landing area.


Airport authorities

-     Approve air transport licences and permits.

-     Conduct bilateral airport negotiations e.g. landing rights.

-     Provide legal advice on international air rules.

-      Keep statistical records and their analysis.

-     Provide air traffic control for safe, secure and orderly flow of traffic.

-     Set up radar stations, aerodromes and entry and exit systems.

-     Provide search and rescue services.

-     Make radio navigation aids available to aircraft.

-     Provide mobile and fixed contacts between aircraft and ground units.

-     Provide fire brigade, security service, flight times and warehouses.


Importance of increased air cargo

-     Volume of trade among nations has increased.

-     More routes are now available.

-     Costs of air freight are falling.

-     Urgently needed goods are delivered fast.

-      Less theft and damage to goods.

-      Increased safety and security.

-      Low insurance costs.

  1. Pipelines

-     Pipelines are used to carry liquids and gases over short and long distances.

-     The Beira-Mutare pipeline carries oil.



-     A safe form of transport, with little risk of theft.

-     Cheap to run, with low costs of maintenance.

-     Fluids flow fast.

-     Carry alternative fluids.

-     Carry large volumes of fluid.



-     Expensive to construct.

-     Carry fluids only.

-     Fluids might freeze.

-     Damage disrupts smooth flow of fluids.

-     Costly to spot the leakage.

-     Flow stops during repairs.

-     Repairs are costly.



-     Goods packed in big, standard sized boxes or containers at departure point.

-     Goods unpacked at destination.

-     Cranes used to load and unload the containers.



-     Reduces the handling of goods in transit.

-     Saves human power at departure and destination points.

-     Quick to load and unload the goods.

-     Mechanisation reduces costs of distribution of goods.

-     Reduces pilferage.

-     Reduces damage of goods.

-     Insurance costs are low.


Multiple choice questions


  1. What determines the mode of transport for the carriage of goods? (i)  Distance

(ii) Speed

(iii) Cost



A.  (i) and (ii)


(i) and (iii)

C.  (ii) and (iii)


(i), (ii) and (iii)


Inland goods are not carried by




A.  canal.




C.  rail.




Road carriage



  1. has rigid time tables.
  2. is accessible to remotest areas.
  3. is fast and cheap over long distances.
  4. is cheap for bulky goods over long distances.
  5. Fresh farm produce is best sent overseas by a combination of


A.  road and air.


road and sea.

C.  sea and air.


canal and air.






A.  ensures goods’ safety.


reduces uses of cranes.


C.  leads to high operational costs.


increases the use of manual labour.


Essay questions

  1. Why has the carriage of goods by road increased?
  2. Explain the functions of seaport authorities.
  3. Explain the mode to carry:

(i)   timber from Beira to Maputo. (ii) gold from Harare to London. (iii) coal from Hwange to Mutare.

(iv) factory machine spare parts from Japan to Zimbabwe. (v)  bread from a bakery to nearby residential shop.

  1. Why has the carriage of goods by air risen?
  2. a)   What is containerisation?
  3. b) Explain the advantages of containerisation.