IANA report points to strong Q4 and full-year 2012 intermodal performance

IANA said that 2012 was a record year for intermodal container movements at roughly 13,108,672 million, which topped 2011 by 5.9 percent and the previous high in 2007 by 9.8 percent.

By ·

During a prolonged period of economic ebbs and flows, one constant in recent years has been the resilience of intermodal transportation. That was made clear by this week’s release of the Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report from the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).

IANA said that 2012 was a record year for intermodal container movements at roughly 13,108,672 million, which topped 2011 by 5.9 percent and the previous high in 2007 by 9.8 percent.

And total 2012 intermodal volume—at 14,632,228 million—was up 4.0 percent annually. Domestic containers—at 5,528,184 million—saw a 12 percent annual gain, and international containers—at 7,580,488 million—were up 1.7 percent. All domestic equipment at 7,051,740 million—was up 6.5 percent, and trailers continued their slide, down 10.1 percent at 1,523,556 million.

For the fourth quarter, total volume—at 3,671,252—was up 2.0 percent compared to 2011. Domestic containers again paced all intermodal volumes, up 10.5 percent at 1,444,919 million, and international containers—at 1,846,635 million—were down 0.7 percent. All domestic equipment was up 4.9 percent at 1,824,617 million, and trailers dipped 12.2 percent to 379,698.

With fourth quarter annual growth of 2 percent lower than annual growth of 4 percent, IANA said that some shipping trends make it difficult to discern how much of the weakness was due to one-time factors and how much was due to economic uncertainty. The report also pointed out that December was not a strong month, although it was not clear how much was due to the since resolved East and Gulf Coast ports and labor contract situation and economic issues.

“Speculation heading into the fourth quarter was that things would be much flatter in the fourth quarter, and that did not happen,” said IANA President and CEO Joni Casey in an interview. “We were expecting similar growth but not at the levels that we saw.”

The growth on the domestic container side does not come as a major surprise, as domestic containers grew for the fourth straight quarter at a double-digit clip, coupled with the fact that big-box loads have nearly doubled in the last decade and things like strong investments into rail networks, terminals and container fleets, high fuel prices, financial and regulatory burdens on truckers, high levels of rail service, and expansion of rail product offerings all remain intact, said IANA.

Total domestic intermodal volumes increased 1.8 percent from the third quarter to the fourth quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis, which IANA said was the strongest growth of the year in leading domestic intermodal volumes to a new seasonally-adjusted high.

What’s more, domestic intermodal has grown for 13 consecutive quarters, even though IANA said gains slowed down for the third straight quarter and domestic growth was at its slowest pace since the recession ended.

“We see this continuing,” said Casey. “There is just no indication that is going to change. We are looking at ten-plus percent domestic growth this year. It still remains to be seen how it will shake out, but the indicators and conditions driving this momentum will be maintained if not increased, especially with the recent spike in fuel prices.”

Although domestic intermodal is in good shape at the moment, Casey observed that international represents more than 50 percent of total volumes at 52 percent, and she said about three-to-four percent growth is expected for 2013.

IANA said that total international shipments were down 7.7 percent from December 2011 to December 2012, marking the worst month on record since December 2009.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

IANA · Intermodal · All Topics
Hub Group Resources
Not Your Grandfather's Intermodal
Transportation of freight in containers was first recorded around 1780 to move coal along England’s Bridgewater Canal. However, "modern" intermodal rail service by a major U.S. railroad only dates back to 1936. Malcom McLean’s Sea-Land Service significantly advanced intermodalism, showing how freight could be loaded into a “container” and moved by two or more modes economically and conveniently. As with all new technologies, there were problems that slowed the growth, which influenced many potential customers to shy away from moving intermodal.
Click here to download
Latest Whitepaper
Face security threats head-on. Protect data beyond perimeter.
Traditional Data Loss Protection (DLP) solutions present a number of serious shortcomings and challenges for companies deploying them, creating a clear gap in the market.
Download Today!
From the January 2018 Logistics Management Magazine Issue
Industry experts agree that costs across all sectors worldwide will continue to rise in 2018, and the most successful shippers will be those that are able to mitigate their impact on profitability. And, the right technology will play an increasingly vital role in driving efficiencies across the global logistics network.
The Future of Retail Distribution
Navigating the Reverse Supply Chain for Connected Devices
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
IAM, IoT and the Connected Supply Chain
There are three primary models of Identity and Access Management (IAM) technology that CTOs, CSOs, and Supply Chain executives are using to enhance their trading partner communities. While each leverages IAM and the IoT as core components only an “Outside-in” approach truly connects people, systems and things reliably and securely across the supply chain.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
State of Global Logistics: Delivering above and beyond
Industry experts agree that costs across all sectors worldwide will continue to rise in 2018, and...
2018 Rate Outlook: Economic Expansion, Pushing Rates Skyward
Trade and transport analysts see rates rising across all modes in accordance with continued...

Building the NextGen Supply Chain: Keeping pace with the digital economy
Peerless Media’s 2017 Virtual Summit shows how creating a data-rich ecosystem can eliminate...
2017 NASSTRAC Shipper of the Year: Mallinckrodt; Mastering and managing complexity
An inside look at how a large pharmaceutical firm transformed its vendor and supplier relationships...