In the first quarter, total intermodal volume reached 3,682,049 units, up 4.5 percent compared with first-quarter 2012, according to the Intermodal Association of North America's (IANA) latest "Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics" report.
"Factors contributing to these volume gains include stronger than expected consumer spending and continued growth in intermodal market share based on tight highway capacity and solid railroad service performance," IANA officials said in the report.
Domestic container volume shot up 10.2 percent to 1,427,802 units, the sixth-straight quarter of double-digit gains and the second-highest quarterly volume in history, the report states. Total domestic equipment volume rose 6.2 percent to 1,812,061 units.
International container volume increased 3 percent to 1,869,988 units, with U.S. West Coast shipments rising at a quicker pace than East Coast movements, the report states.
"The Southeast region recorded the largest overall gain in Q1 movements, growing by 10.5 percent over the same quarter last year," IANA officials said. "Domestic containers also performed better in this corridor."
Trailer volume dipped 6.3 percent to 384,259 units, but still exhibited some positive signs, they said.
"Volumes had been declining by more than 10 percent in each of the previous two quarters, but Q1 reflected a smaller decrease," IANA officials said.
Looking ahead, some analysts have expressed caution about domestic intermodal volume in the next six to eight months because some key economic indicators, including industrial production and retail sales, have weakened, the report states. But IANA officials remain optimistic given intermodal's recent history.
"[We] expect domestic intermodal volumes to trend higher based on the industry's commitment to investing in the intermodal product and continued opportunities for share gains," they said.
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