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Rail News: Intermodal

Domestic container volume surged in Q1, IANA says


Strong domestic container volume drove an overall intermodal traffic gain in the first quarter, according to the Intermodal Association of North America’s (IANA) latest Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report. Domestic container volume jumped 14.9 percent to 1,290,139 units and total intermodal volume rose 5.8 percent to 3,476,500 units compared with first-quarter 2011 data.

“While a rebounding economy helped boost volume, much of Q1’s domestic intermodal gains can be attributed to market share growth, as trucking capacity was tight during the quarter and diesel prices resumed their rise after softening in Q4,” IANA officials said in the report. “Domestic container gains were biggest in the East, where intermodal faces more competition from trucking.”

International container volume increased 2.9 percent in the quarter, reaching 1,803,327 units. Although the gain “pales in comparison to the strength of domestic containers," a closer examination of the data suggests that international intermodal’s Q1 performance was much stronger than the year-over year growth rate suggests, IANA officials said.

“International intermodal shipments advanced 9.6 percent in first-quarter 2011 … driven by the need for retailers to replenish inventories after a better-than-expected holiday sales season,” they said. “[That] booming growth … has made comparisons more challenging for Q1 of 2012.”

Meanwhile, the volume of all domestic equipment climbed 9.1 percent in the quarter to 1,673,173 units and trailer volume declined 6.9 percent to 383,034 units.

Looking ahead, domestic container gains may slow in coming months as comparisons to last year become more competitive, but international growth likely will accelerate, IANA officials said.

“Overall, we believe container shipments should maintain their strong growth rate through the year,” they said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/9/2012