IANA reports a 2.4 percent gain in total Q2 intermodal volumes

The Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) reported this week in its Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report that total second quarter intermodal container and trailer movements showed annual growth, albeit not at the levels seen in the first quarter, with total movements—at 3,885,581 trailers and containers—up 2.4 percent annually.

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The Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) reported this week in its Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report that total second quarter intermodal container and trailer movements showed annual growth, albeit not at the levels seen in the first quarter, with total movements—at 3,885,581 trailers and containers—up 2.4 percent annually.

Domestic containers again paced all intermodal categories in terms of rate of growth, increasing 9.0 percent annually to 1,518,085. While this growth rate was impressive, it fell short of the 10.2 percent annual gain from the first quarter and the 10.5 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2012. 

Trailers in the second quarter dropped 2.5 percent annually to 397,249. IANA President and CEO Joni Casey said the “decline in trailer losses has more than ‘halved’ for the last two quarters and certainly bucks the trend that we were seeing at the end of 2012…t remains to be seen if we’ll see actual gains during the third quarter of this year, but not outside realm of possibilities given ongoing OTR equipment and driver capacity challenges.”

The report observed that even though domestic container growth slowed from the first quarter to the second quarter, total domestic intermodal growth improved during the same period.

What’s more, this domestic data highlights the fact that domestic intermodal has been on a strong growth track due to things like lower fuel cost and improving service, as well as major investments into rail networks, spurring the thesis that that intermodal is taking share from over the road trucking and will continue to be an area of secular growth for railroads.

But while the growth rates are impressive, industry experts maintain that these strong domestic container intermodal volumes are due in large part to freight coming out of intermodal trailers into trailers or from one box to another, coupled with the fact that the gross number of intermodal loadings—both domestic and container—were higher in 2006 than in 2012 as was gross GDP and industrial production. What’s more, during that same period the number of truckloads moved and truck tonnage volume is larger than intermodal.

Casey said that the absolute amount of domestic containers was up 6 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter, while total intermodal volume growth is predicted to be up in the 3-to-4 percent range annually.

International containers in the second quarter—at 1,940,247—was down 1.3 percent compared to last year, following a 3.0 percent gain in the first quarter. The IANA report pointed out that through the first two months of the quarter international was on its way to showing positive growth, with 1.0 percent gains in both April and May, but those numbers were negated by June’s 6.0 percent drop.

“The [annual] comparison in this segment is also impacted by higher than predicted growth in international shipments during the second of 2012, so we don’t know if June is an anomaly or will be repeated in subsequent months,” said Casey. “A slower global economy could also be a dampening factor.”

IMC (Intermodal Marketing Company) intermodal and highway revenue for the second quarter—at $889,612,996 and $191,494,645—were up 5.8 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively. Total revenue—at $1,081,107,641—was up 5.1 percent. Average revenue per intermodal load—at $2,637—was up 1.3 percent and average revenue per highway load—at $2,719—was up 4.6 percent, and average revenue per highway load—at $1,412—was down 3.4 percent.

Total second quarter IMC loads—at 462,789—were up 5.6 percent, with intermodal loads up 6.0 percent at 327,135 and highway loads up 4.4 percent at 135,654.

With IMC volumes seeing relatively slight gains with IMCs seeing more loadings growth from highway than from intermodal for the first time in almost five years, Casey stressed that two quarters don’t make a trend as IMC volumes have usually tracked with overall intermodal shipments, making it likely too early to rush to judgment.


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

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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.
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