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Today I want to explain the difference between Transportation and Trade Lanes. As both objects have a lot in common, a few people might get confused about the usage.

Taking a first look, both objects are geographical definitions having a start and a destination. Start and destination can either be a location or a transportation zone. To each instance Means of Transport can be assigned. So much of the similarities.

Transportation Lanes are used to steer transportation planning processes and have a long history going back to the SAP APO. To really steer something, they need to have quite a lot of attributes attached to them like validity, duration, distance, cost, carriers, and so on. This makes the object itself quite complex and the maintenance sometimes cumbersome. The definition itself is part of the SCM basis, SAP TM defines its own view on it with transaction /SCMTMS/TL5 hiding irrelevant fields. When trying to plan an order from location A to location B, the system will evaluate if there is a valid transportation lane including hierarchical aspects for the network and means of transport. Short to say: You don't have to define for all location combinations an own lane, but you can use transportation zones. For example from my warehouse X to all customers on the east coast, there can be just a single lane. I will spend an own MKS for this in the future.

Transportation Lane

Within the SAP TM solution, there are different additional spots where a geographical definition is required, but on a much lower detailed level without all of these special planning attributes. The complexity and cumbersome definition of Transportation Lanes led to the decision, the create a new TM specific and lean object, the so called Trade Lane. Trade Lanes are used for Business Shares, Allocations, and Freight Agreements. This more contractual view includes a more flexible definition including an orientation for each Trade Lane. This makes it possible to define Trade Lanes without a start or destination for some orientations, which is allowed for Transportation Lanes. Possible orientations are: Inbound, Outbound, From, To, Along and Within.

Trade Lane in Freight Agreement

Trade Lane in Business Share

Trade Lane in Allocation

Another difference compared to Transportation Lanes is the possibility to define Trade Lanes just for a Transportation Mode like AIR or SEA not specifing a Means of Transport. When evaluating the Trade Lanes, the system will automatically determine all relevant Means of Transport for the Trade Lane.

For Trade Lanes there is no own maintenance UI as they are created in the Business Shares, Allocations, or Freight Agreements. Of course if a Trade Lane already exists (for example created for a specific FA), it will be reused for all other definitions.

Important to note is that Trade Lanes are not used during planning. There is no direct link between Transportation Lanes and Trade Lanes. Of course you can think of scenarios where this might be cool to have and maybe it will come in the future, but currently the planning specific definition must also exist. The Trade Lane itself has a function to find all relevant Transportation Lanes on BO level.

I am not aware of any upload function for Trade Lanes.

I hope this shines a light on the topic.