September intermodal volumes see gains, reports IANA

Intermodal volumes for the month of September showed steady annual growth levels, based on data recently provided to LM by the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).

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Intermodal volumes for the month of September showed steady annual growth levels, based on data recently provided to LM by the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).

Total volume for the month, at 1,511,571 units, was up 2.4% annually. 

Trailers saw the most significant growth, rising 6.8% to 116,653, with domestic containers seeing a 1.7% annual gain to 650,848. Total domestic equipment was up 2.4% annually to 767,501. ISO, or international containers, had the highest-volume month of all IANA metrics, rising 2.3% to 779,605. 

On a year-to-date basis through September, the annual spreads for each category are higher than September was on a standalone basis. 

Total intermodal volume for first nine months of 2018 is up 6% to 14,131,609. Trailers, at 5,915,416, and domestic containers, at 5,915,416, are up 5.3% and 6.7%, respectively, with all domestic equipment up 6.7% to 6,987,802. ISO containers, at 7,143,807, saw a 5.4% gain. 

These impressive numbers confirm the ongoing thesis that solid economic fundamentals, in tandem with steady demand, are driving strong volume-growth.

And it is especially impressive on the intermodal side, when one considers that U.S. intermodal unit volume continues to outpace U.S. rail carload data, according to data from the Association of American Railroads. 

Other factors driving solid intermodal growth include still-tight truckload capacity, coupled with the ongoing driver shortage, with the trucking market also dealing with some crimped production, due to the December 2017 implementation of the Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) mandate for motor carriers.

Earlier this year, told IANA President and CEO Joni Casey LM that there were several reasons for the strong intermodal performance, including:  overall strong economy; continued import growth; higher fuel prices; tight OTR capacity; and weak comparisons to lower 2017 volumes in some markets.

Addressing the ongoing trailer growth, Casey described it as a “byproduct of heavy e-commerce demand, but it is also a factor of tighter over-the-road capacity,” adding “it remains to be seen if this is ‘the new normal.’”

On the ISO side, IANA explained that rising container import volumes are the main reason for segment growth, adding that barring any sort of change to trade policy, that growth should remain intact in 2018, paced by solid economic fundamentals. But should large tariffs be applied to Chinese imports, IANA said it could have a “significant impact on ISO container volume,” which would be a cause for concern, as 47% of U.S. container volume originates in China.

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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