Intermodal Bounces Back in Q1

Intermodal Bounces Back in Q1

Intermodal freight volumes returned to growth in the first quarter of 2017 following declines during 2016, according to the Intermodal Association of North America’s (IANA) Intermodal Market Trends and Statistics report. International and domestic containers rose 2.9 percent and 1.3 percent respectively, and intermodal trailers posted minimal gains of 0.3 percent.

"All intermodal market segments showed improvement in the first quarter," says Joni Casey, president and CEO of IANA. "What’s notable is that it comes on the heels of 2-percent growth in the same quarter of 2016, suggesting real gains, not just a weak comparison."

The seven highest-density trade corridors, accounting for 63.4 percent of total intermodal volume, collectively were up 2.1 percent in the quarter. Gains were varied, ranging from a 7.4-percent increase between Eastern and Western Canada, to a 1.3-percent loss in the South Central-Southwest corridor. The corridor with the highest volumes, the Midwest-Southwest, grew 1.7 percent.

Drilling down to international container growth, the top five corridors contributing to international volume gains were in the east to west lanes. Midwest-Southwest moves increased 19 percent, the highest share of international volume growth, followed by the Northeast-Midwest at 13 percent. The Eastbound Western Canada-Eastern Canada lane experienced 13-percent gains.

Intermodal marketing company (IMC) reporting offers a view of rail-hauled quarterly performance side by side with highway results. Participating IMCs showed gains of 7.5 percent in total quarterly loads, reflecting the continued strength of highway shipments. These increased 11.6 percent over the same quarter the previous year. Intermodal loads also gained 3.6 percent after a double-digit drop for the full 2016 year.

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