Domestic intermodal posts best results in four years

By: | at 07:00 PM | Intermodal  

Domestic containers up 10.5% as record fuel prices shift freight to rail

Domestic intermodal had its best performance this quarter since the second quarter of 2004 according to a report released today by the Intermodal Association of North America. A strong 10.5% gain in domestic containers ’ their strongest quarter of growth since 1999 ’ coupled with moderate domestic trailer volumes pushed overall domestic volume up a respectable 6.7%. This solid performance helped boost overall year-to-date domestic growth up by 4.7%, according to Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics, a comprehensive intermodal volume data report published by IANA.

Domestic container growth was driven by a 16.1% surge in 53-foot containers, while all other container sizes posted declines during the quarter. Domestic container gains were particularly strong in the Midwest-Northeast corridor, where eastbound shipments increased 15%, while westbound shipments increased 6%. And a first in more than three years, trailers had their second consecutive quarter of volume gains, which were primarily driven by a 10.4% increase in 53-foot units.

Q3 2007/2008 Intermodal Volume Comparisons

Equipment Type Q3 2007 Q3 2008 Change
Trailers 526,888 527,840 +0.2 %
Domestic Containers 919,085 1,015,326 +10.5 %
All Domestic Equipment 1,445,973 1,543,166 +6.7 %
ISO Containers 2,172,645 2,040,991 -6.1 %
Total 3,618,618 3,584,157 -1.0 %

Continued weakness in consumer spending depressed container imports and overall international results. While international volume declined 6.1% in Q3 08 compared to Q3 07, the 2008 year to date figure was down 5.7%. In spite of a weak economy, total intermodal volume has held up relatively well. To date, shipments are only 1.6% below last year’s numbers. If economic concerns worsen, it appears unlikely that we will see a noticeable rebound in international volume during the next few quarters, but domestic should continue its solid performance as road-to-rail conversion opportunities are expected to remain an attractive transportation option for many shippers.