Intermodal continues to be a major force in rail volume growth on North American Class 1 railroads. And within the category, containers are a substantial driver.
At the end of the second quarter, intermodal shipments accounted for 24.7% of rail traffic, nudging closer to the commodity leader – coal – which stood at 30.9% of total freight traffic on Class 1 railroads. Strong first-quarter intermodal volume growth centered on container traffic, which continues to show some of the highest percentage growth figures of all commodities.
Though not yet a trend, the first week into the third quarter (week 27) offered a 1% growth in overall traffic, dominated by a 4.1% increase in intermodal. Commodities actually fell in the week when compared with the same period a year ago. The 1% decline in commodity carloadings resulted from double-digit drops in stone, clay and glass; coke; waste and scrap and in non-metallic minerals.
Container traffic in the week showed slower growth at 6.1% vs. a growth rate of 6.9% for the complete second quarter and 9.4% growth in the first quarter.