Intermodal Volumes Bounce Back in Third Quarter

As the U.S. economy showed hints of recovery during the third-quarter, so did intermodal results, reports Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) on the eve of its annual conference, held this year in Anaheim, Calif. According to IANA, year-over-year volume comparisons improved during the quarter, with total volume off 16.4%—a significant improvement over Q2’s downturn of 18.7%. Domestic container volume increased in every U.S. region during Q3, growing 1.3% overall. Domestic advances during the quarter were entirely in 53-foot equipment, which jumped 5.5%.

Despite the severity of the recession, it is important to note that domestic container growth has not retreated into negative territory once on a quarterly basis. Although growth did slow in 2009, gains in domestic equipment volume have increased each quarter of the year. These increases began with a Q1 advance of 0.1%, followed by a 0.9% surge in Q2, and finally this quarter’s 1.3% up-tick.

International volumes fell for a ninth-consecutive quarter, with over 20% decreases realized during each quarter of 2009. Encouragingly, the rate of decline decelerated in every month of the quarter, with September’s result only 20%.

Intermodal marketing companies (IMCs) continued to mirror the industry’s challenges in Q3. IMC intermodal volume results were in line with the broader industry on a year-over-year basis, falling 8.6% compared to a 7.7% overall decline in domestic intermodal. IMCs had topped overall results slightly in Q2. At the same time, IMC highway loadings drew almost even with year-ago results after two years of steady and sometimes brutal decline, IANA reports.

Third Quarter 2009 Intermodal Volume Comparisons

Equipment Type

2008

2009

Change

Trailers

527,840

395,308

-25.1 %

Domestic Containers

1,015,326

1,028,989

+1.3 %

All Domestic Equipment

1,543,166

1,424,297

-7.7 %

ISO Containers

2,040,991

1,570,746

-23.0 %

Total

3,584,157

2,995,043

-16.4 %

Source: IANA

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