Transportation Logistics, Nigel Pavitt / Gettyimages
A generous interpretation of load capacity: a grossly overloaded trucktraveling on the rough Bahr el Ghazal route from Faya in Chad. © Nigel Pavitt / Gettyimages

Globalization moves an ever greater number of objects to increasingly faraway places. Simple and complicated transportation problems can be found the world over, each fascinating in the variety—and scale—of their solutions.

Since humans could walk upright, they have been able to use their hands to take along their indispensable objects. But even a typical weekend trip to the grocery store can quickly push a person to her or his limits. Even in prehistoric times, people tried everything to expand their transportation capacity: simple vessels, bags, stretchers, and sleds must have been invented very early on. They were, in fact, the prerequisite for human kind's increasing mobility, a critical success factor for continued survival.

The evolution of transportation

The invention of the wheel made this movement immensely easier. Not only could more material be moved more quickly from A to B, the distances increased as well. A logistical revolution began, even more profound than the steam engine, car, plane or space travel. Human history can definitely be interpreted as the evolution of transportation—of people, information, and above all, time and time again, the transportation of goods.

The challenge was always to move precious cargo to its destination in the easiest and cheapest manner, but also as quickly and as safely as possible—whether by land, sea or later even air; or on foot, like the ice man mummy Ötzi, or like the bicycle courier, the captain of a Chinese junk, or an Arab dhow; or in semi-trailer trucks, mile-long freight trains, intercontinental freight airplanes or well protected in refrigerated trucks; or by drone or conveyor belt. In the search for such solutions, inventiveness is virtually limitless.

Even transportation technology is pushed to its limits

Type of cargo, routes, investments and the calendar are determining factors. They sometimes require unconventional measures to successfully combine them. Quite often, mastery is achieved, even earning mention in the Guinness Book of Records.

But occasionally even sophisticated, cutting-edge technology is pushed to its limits, requiring the use of archaic solutions because the route is impassable or resources are not available: Pushcarts, llamas,camels and yaks are still the best choices in some regions. And sometimes people have to do it themselves, particularly when it comes to loading.

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