The 10.2 percent year-over-year gain in domestic container volume in the first quarter of 2013 represents the sixth consecutive quarter of 10 percent plus increases, and the second highest volume in domestic container history, according to the Intermodal Association of North America’s Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report. Overall, intermodal growth accelerated 4.5 percent in Q1, from the previous year’s level. Factors contributing to these volume gains include stronger than expected consumer spending and continued growth in intermodal market share based on tight highway capacity and solid railroad service performance.

First Quarter 2013 Intermodal Volume Comparisons

Equipment Type

2012

2013

Change

Trailers

409,899

384,259

-6.3%

Domestic Containers

1,296,083

1,427,802

+10.2%

All Domestic Equipment

1,705,982

1,812,061

+6.2%

ISO Containers

1,816,239

1,869,988

+3.0%

Total

3,522,221

3,682,049

+4.5%

 

Total international volume increased by 3 percent, with U.S. West Coast shipments rising at a quicker pace than U.S. East Coast movements, IANA said. The Southeast region recorded the largest overall gain in Q1 movements, growing by 10.5% over the same quarter last year.  Domestic containers also performed better in this corridor.  Marginal but steady decreases in the length of haul for both international and domestic intermodal movements point to additional opportunities for intermodal market improvement.

Even intermodal trailers exhibited some positive signs.  Volumes had been declining by more than 10 percent in each of the previous two quarters, but Q1 reflected a smaller, 6.3% decrease. Some analysts have expressed caution about the next six to eight months, as some key economic indicators including industrial production and retail sales have weakened.  However, Joni Casey, IANA’s president and CEO, remains optimistic given intermodal’s recent history. She expects domestic intermodal volumes to trend higher based on the industry’s commitment to investing in the intermodal product and continued opportunities for share gains.