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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

North American intermodal volume declines for first time since 2002, IANA says

Talk about tough comparisons. In the second quarter, North American rail intermodal volume totaled 3.53 million units — not exactly a miniscule amount given the weak U.S. economy.

But volume decreased 1.5 percent compared with second-quarter 2006, when the intermodal industry set a record at 3.58 million units and posted the second-best quarterly total ever, according to the Intermodal Association of North America’s (IANA) quarterly “Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics” report.

The industry hasn’t registered a traffic decline since first-quarter 2002, when weak volume ended a streak of 20-straight quarterly gains, the report states.

During the second quarter, international container traffic, which has led volume increases the past five years, decreased 1.9 percent to 2.1 million units compared with the same 2006 period. Domestic intermodal volume declined 0.8 percent to 1.4 million units even though domestic containers rose 9.2 percent to 889,305 units. The culprit: railroads continued to de-emphasize trailer traffic, which fell 14.2 percent to 523,818 units, IANA said.

“On the positive side, intermodal marketing company volume rose 2.2 percent, the first volume growth over the prior year period since 2003, suggesting a market share gain in the domestic freight market,” the report states.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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