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Rail News: Intermodal

Strong 4Q capped off 'banner year' for intermodal volume, IANA says

Building on a positive 2012, North American intermodal shipments in 2013 reached 15,537,925 units, up 4.6 percent year over year, according to the Intermodal Association of North America's (IANA) fourth-quarter and year-end "Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics" report.

Domestic container volume — which has doubled over the past 10 years — outperformed other segments last year by posting a 9.4 percent gain to 6,094,770 units, IANA officials said in the report. All domestic equipment increased 7.1 percent to 7,714,803 units and trailer volume dipped 0.7 percent to 1,620,033 units versus 2012.

International container volume continued its comeback from previous quarters in 2013 and recorded year-over-year growth of 2.3 percent (to 7,823,122 units) compared with a 1.8 percent gain in 2012, the report states.

In the fourth quarter, total intermodal volume rose 7 percent to 3,989,715 units compared with the year-ago period. All domestic equipment grew 8 percent to 2,018,667 units, domestic container volume climbed 9 percent to 1,591,799 units, international container volume increased 5.9 percent to 1,971,048 units and trailer volume rose 4.7 percent to 426,868 units.

The trailer gain nearly reversed exceptionally slow trailer activity in the first part of 2013, IANA officials said. And due to depressed fourth-quarter 2012 loadings, a bump in international containers was expected, although the 4Q uptick was enough to suggest a trend rather than easy year-over-year comparisons, they said.

"[It was] a banner year and quarter for intermodal, underscoring the strong alternative it provides to over-the-road transport," said IANA President and Chief Executive Officer Joni Casey. "All markets performed exceptionally well during the fourth quarter, with both international and intermodal trailers recording their best improvement in years."

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