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Domestic and international intermodal volumes are following growth paths so far this year, as consumers regain confidence in the economy and imports continue to flow into North American ports.
Intermodal volume increased 9 percent year over year in the first quarter, with international traffic jumping 9.6 percent and domestic traffic rising 8.4 percent, according to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).
“A fifth straight quarter of impressive international growth led all intermodal market segments,” IANA officials stated in a quarterly Intermodal Market Trends and Statistics report. “Gains were all the more impressive given domestic energy challenges and various global incidents such as Japan’s earthquake and subsequent nuclear issues, potentially affecting supply chain and planning activities.”
International gains were driven by continued strength in imports and retail sales, as consumer spending continued to improve during the first quarter. Looking ahead, some analysts are projecting an overall intermodal traffic gain of 6 percent to 8 percent for the year. Intermodal traffic growth this year likely won’t be as high as 2010’s 14.7 percent gain; however, last year’s traffic was compared with 2009 volumes that were negatively impacted by the global recession.
“This year is even more encouraging than 2010,” says Tom Malloy, IANA vice president of member services. “It looks like this year we may start to see a trend similar to what we saw in 2008, which was before the economic challenges.”
The IANA report cited other intermodal developments during the first quarter, including agreements CN and Canadian Pacific signed with the Montreal Port Authority to improve productivity and efficiencies at the port. In addition, Union Pacific Railroad announced plans to build a 2,200-acre intermodal facility near Santa Teresa, N.M.
— Julie Sneider