IANA reports strong 2011 and Q4 intermodal volume numbers

When it comes to intermodal growth and the momentum this mode has, it is more than clear that the numbers don't lie.

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When the full-year 2011 numbers from the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) were released this week, the final tallies were hardly a surprise.

This is for a few reasons, especially when one thinks about the things intermodal has going for it. Here are a few quick examples or reminders: high fuel prices, which give intermodal a cost-efficient and green alternative to straight over-the-road trucking, coupled with trading off significant fuel savings for longer transit times; and continued investments by railroads in their networks to improve service and handle more capacity in the future.

What’s more, domestic intermodal in particular, is increasingly becoming more capable of handling lanes which are considered one-day trips, and that various truckload shippers are working in tandem with railroads on developing intermodal corridors and terminals, according to industry stakeholders.

Now, onto the 2011 numbers.

For the full year 2011, IANA reported total loadings were up 4.9 percent annually at 14,071,525. That number and percentage gain in itself is impressive and speaks to the fact that more shippers are using intermodal for some of the reasons mentioned above.

Leading the charge with these full-year numbers, not surprisingly, is domestic containers posting a 9.6 percent gain at 4,926,185. One of the main drivers for sustained domestic growth, which LM has reported on, is largely due to an aggressive approach towards intermodal by motor carriers to moving freight on the railroads. The main drivers for this are improving service and reliability, service integrity, and transit times that match up well with what supply chain managers want and expect.

When these things are considered, it makes sense to see 2011 trailers up 1.7 percent at 1,693,782 and all domestic equipment up 7.5 percent at 6,619,967.

This is not to downplay a solid performance on the international side, which saw ISO containers up 2.8 percent at 7,451,558.

Total 2011 container volume—at about 12.4 million—marked a new all-time record, according to IANA, topping the previous single year record from 2007 by 3.7 percent.

Total fourth quarter volume was up 4.1 percent at 3,600,181, said IANA. Domestic containers also paced this growth at 1,307,165 for a 12.1 percent year-over-year gain.
Rounding out the domestic side was a 3.0 percent dip for trailers at 432,623, with all domestic equipment up 7.9 percent at 1,739,788.

IANA officials said that domestic container gains were prevalent in all regions it tracks, with “big box” domestic loadings of 48-foot and 53-foot containers posting their highest-recorded numbers for the fourth quarter and the full year, coupled with representing 39.8 percent of total 2011 container volumes.

Fourth quarter ISO containers were up 0.7 percent at 1,860,393.

Even with an uneven economy, albeit recent signs and metrics have some promise of late, it appears intermodal growth remains resilient. This is even more apparent when you consider that 2011 marked the second straight year of intermodal growth, while the fourth quarter has shown eight straight quarters of annual volume growth.

Intermodal is—and continues to make—an impact. The numbers don’t lie.


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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Article Topics

IANA · Intermodal · Rail Freight · Truckload · All Topics
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