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Rail News: Intermodal

Trailer gain bested domestic container growth in Q1, IANA says

For the first time in a decade, trailer volume growth outpaced a domestic container gain in a quarter, according to the Intermodal Association of North America's (IANA) quarterly "Intermodal Trends & Statistics" report.

In the first quarter, trailer volume totaled 413,064, up 7.5 percent, while domestic containers totaled 1,473,124, up 3.2 percent compared with first-quarter 2013 figures. Trailer growth also outperformed all other intermodal segments in Q1, the report states.

"This ended the sustained streak of market leadership that had been enjoyed by domestic containers," IANA officials said in a press release. "[But] domestic containers can still point to an impressive eight-year cumulative average growth rate of 8.6 percent."

Overall, intermodal volume in Q1 totaled 3,777,454 units, up 2.6 percent year over year.

"Severe weather during the first quarter impacted the entire transportation network," said IANA President and Chief Executive Officer Joni Casey. "But despite these challenges, intermodal volumes showed modest growth, led by gains in trailer movements, particularly in some of the regions that were hardest hit by winter, such as the Northeast and Eastern Canada."

First-quarter data also shows that domestic equipment volume increased 4.1 percent to 1,886,188 units and international container volume inched up 1.1 percent to 1,891,266 units. International volumes demonstrated volatility in the quarter yet registered a gain, IANA officials said.

"Declines were recorded in the first two months of the year, but international shipments posted an impressive 8.5 percent gain over March 2013," they said. "It’s a little too early though to tell whether March is indicative of an upward trend or an anomaly when considering the strength of the international sector."

Activity among intermodal marketing companies (IMCs) — which generally are a good indicator of broader intermodal industry trends — also was impacted adverse winter weather, IANA officials said. Total volume dropped 1.2 percent year over year, marking the first decline since third-quarter 2009.

"Given the long-term strength demonstrated by domestic intermodal coupled with tight trucking capacity, it’s likely that intermodal will continue to be the dominate source of IMC growth for the balance of 2014," IANA officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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