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North American intermodal container volume set a new record with 12.4 million moves in 2011, beating the prior record set in 2007 by a "noteworthy" 3.7 percent, according to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).
Total volume rose 4.9 percent to 14.1 million units in 2011 compared with 13.4 million units in 2010, stated IANA's "Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics" report issued last month. Domestic container volume jumped 9.6 percent to 5 million units compared with 4.6 million in 2010. Total domestic equipment volume rose 7.5 percent to 6.6 million units; trailer volume inched up 1.7 percent to 1.7 million; and international container volume climbed 2.8 percent to 7.5 million units.
During the fourth quarter, total volume rose 4.1 percent to 3.6 million units compared with the 2010 period, marking the eighth consecutive quarter of year-over-year volume gains.
Domestic container volume soared 12.1 percent to 1.3 million, total domestic volume jumped 7.9 percent to 1.8 million units and international container volume inched up 0.7 percent to 1.9 million units. However, total trailer volume slipped 3 percent to 432,623 units.
Lease rates for freight cars continue to strengthen, particularly for tank cars and covered hoppers, and for mill gondolas related to scrap steel, according to a recent survey of rail-car lease firms conducted by Longbow Research.
Rates remain below normal for coal cars, with a declining outlook over the coming months, the survey found. However, rates for 30,000-gallon tank cars used for oil and ethanol have exceeded prior peak rates by 10 percent to 15 percent, and are approaching the rates for 23,500-gallon cars, Longbow analysts said in a prepared statement.
In addition, car purchase plans remain strong: 64 percent of survey respondents said they intend to purchase new rail cars in 2012, the analysts said.
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