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Q1 intermodal volume has record quarter, says IANA

by Mary Rooney | Jun 05, 2018
Source: Logistics Management

Based on data released in the Intermodal Association of North America’s (IANA) “Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics Report,” the first quarter of 2018 saw higher intermodal volume than any quarter in nearly four years, going back to the second quarter of 2014.

Total first quarter intermodal volume movements at 4,547,247 were up 7 percent annually, which was ahead of the fourth quarter’s 5.8 percent annual spread and the third quarter’s 6.3 percent difference.

International, or ISO, containers led all intermodal categories for the quarter, rising 7 percent to 2,292,274. Domestic containers turned in a strong performance, rising 6.2 percent to 1,899,448, and trailers were up an impressive 14.5 percent to 355,525.

IANA noted that the pairing of decent economic conditions and “specific freight conditions” were key in the strong quarterly performance, adding that container imports were again solid. It also said that high energy prices and tightness in the trucking market translated into more freight moving via domestic intermodal.

Looking ahead, IANA said that intermodal’s share of freight in the first quarter benefitted from the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate for motor carriers, with an ongoing shortage of drivers paired with increasing shipment levels and demand. This has led to an estimated 5-to-6 percent gain in 2018 domestic containers, which would double up 2017’s annual growth for the segment.

On the ISO side, IANA explained that rising container import volumes are the main reason for segment growth in the first quarter, adding that barring any sort of change to trade policy, that growth should remain intact in 2018, paced by solid economic fundamentals. 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 percent of U.S. container volume originates in China.

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