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All Intermodal Market Sectors Post Gains in First Quarter

Volume 2, Issue 10
May 31st, 2014
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Despite severe winter weather, intermodal volumes rose 2.6% in the first quarter above 2013, the Intermodal Association of North America reported.

For the first time in nearly a decade, piggyback trailer growth outperformed all other intermodal segments, posting a 7.5% increase, IANA noted, ending a sustained streak of market leadership that had been enjoyed by domestic containers.

IANA President Joni Casey said that in spite of the weather, “intermodal volumes showed modest growth, led by gains in trailer movements particularly in some of the regions that were hardest hit by winter, such as the Northeast and Eastern Canada.”

Domestic containers saw a 3.2% increase over the first quarter of 2013. International intermodal volumes demonstrated volatility but gained 1.1% when compared year-to-year. In the face of declines in the first two months of 2014, international shipments posted an 8.5% gain over March 2013.

“It’s a little too early though to tell whether March is indicative of an upward trend or an anomaly when considering the strength of the international sector,” IANA pointed out.

The Northwest, Midwest and Eastern Canada all underperformed the industry average, while the Mountain Central, South Central, Southwest and Western Canadian regions all performed better.

At the extremes, the Mountain Central region posted a 17.2% growth and the Northwest saw a 12.9% decrease from the same quarter in 2013.

Intermodal marketing companies, generally a good indicator of broader industry trends, also felt the effects of adverse weather. Total volume levels dropped by 1.2% year-to-year, marking the first decline since the third quarter of 2009. However IMCs reported improved average revenues for the first quarter, mostly boosted by tighter capacity.

“Given the long-term strength demonstrated by domestic intermodal coupled with tight trucking capacity, it’s likely that intermodal will continue to be the dominant source of IMC growth for the balance of 2014,” IANA predicted.

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