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Total intermodal volume in first-quarter 2022 fell 6.6% to 4,312,905 units compared with 4,616,262 units in first-quarter 2021, according to the Intermodal Association of North America's quarterly intermodal market report.
Domestic container shipments increased 5.2% to 2,046,210 units, but international container volume dropped 15.5% to 1,997,046 units and trailer counts fell 12.8% to 269,649.
The weak Q1 volume total — which was was the third-smallest quarterly volume in the past four years — came on the heels of a 9.8% decline in fourth-quarter 2021 and 2.9% dip in third-quarter 2021, IANA officials said in the report. The Omicron surge and was evident as January intermodal loadings declined 13.3%.
Loadings in the seven highest-density trade corridors — which collectively handled more than 60% of total volume — all declined in Q1.
"Supply-chain issues continued to impact volumes in the first quarter, especially on the international side," said IANA President and CEO Joni Casey in a press release. "On the other hand, domestic containers stood out for a respectable year-over-year gain. Higher levels of transloading are primarily responsible for this trend."
Total North American intermodal volume for all of 2022 is expected to increase 0.9%, with declines in the year's first half and gains in the second half, IANA officials project. International container volume is forecasted to decline 2.8% this year with a greater share of imports landing on the East and Gulf Coasts — where intermodal has a lower share — in addition to a larger number of transloads moving in domestic containers off the West Coast.
Increasing transloads and tight trucking conditions should boost domestic container volume by 6.4% in 2022, IANA officials predict.
"Domestic loads should also grow from conversions from trailer traffic where carriers have expanded their domestic container fleets," they said.