US Freight Transportation Takes a Fall

Transportation fell 0.7% in June from its May level. A report from the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the TSI measures month-to-month changes in the output of services provided by for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight. TSI records stretch back 17 years.

For the first half of this year, the TSI did not advance, remaining relatively even. Noted is that this was the first time since 2003 that freight showed no increase for the six-month period and for only the third time in 10 years. Before panic sets in, looking at the broadest picture, the TSI has climbed 7.4% over five years and is up 18.1% over the last decade.

Specifically for rail intermodal, the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) reports a 1.5% drop in volume for the second quarter of this year, from 3.58 million units in 2006 to 3.53 million units this year. The Association attributes the drop to slower US economic activity. The decline was the first in 20 consecutive quarters.

Overall, international freight represented 60% of total intermodal volume for the quarter. Trailer volume was down 14.2% year over year, while domestic container traffic was up a healthy 9.2%. All other segments measured by IANA for the quarter showed declines with all domestic equipment down 0.8% and ISO containers off 1.9%.

“Given the weaker US economy, the traffic decline isn’t unexpected, especially in comparison to the second quarter of 2006, which was the second-best quarter ever for intermodal,” observers Tom Malloy, vice president of member services and business development for the Association. “IANA is confident that the growth trend will resume in the coming months and that the long-term outlook for intermodal remains favorable and positive.”

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