Q3 intermodal volumes see steady gains, says IANA
On a year-to-date basis, intermodal volume—at 12,614,472—is up 3.7 percent annually.
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Amid some sequential fluctuation, third quarter intermodal performance matched up well with year-to-date results, according to the Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics Report released by the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).
Total intermodal volume movements—at 4,356,860—were up 3.4 percent compared to the third quarter of 2014. While intermodal growth was down compared to the second quarter’s increase of 4.5 percent annually, IANA said it was expected, with the West Coast port labor issues during the first quarter creating a freight backlog that subsequently led to higher than usual second quarter volumes, said IANA. On a year-to-date basis, intermodal volume—at 12,614,472—is up 3.7 percent annually.
Like the second quarter, international containers again paced quarterly growth, up 4.0 percent at 2,223,127, which the report observed was nearly identical to the 3.9 percent year-to-date growth of 6,396,649. IANA explained that international growth has been “very volatile” in 2015, with the port disruptions being a factor for that earlier this year, as well as variations in the third quarter, too, with July up 3.3 percent, August up 6.6 percent, and September up 1.6 percent. The report added that this was likely due to shippers moving freight earlier in the year than usual as evidenced by the strength of August’s volumes and September’s sequential decrease.
Domestic containers grew 4.1 percent annually in the third quarter at 1,734,863 (and are up 5.1 percent year-to-date at 5,014,416), and trailers dropped 3.1 percent to 398,870.
When asked if international containers again pacing all intermodal volume gains might be viewed as the new normal, IANA President and CEO Joni Casey said that is not necessarily the case.
“Domestic Container volume gains slightly outpaced ISO gains (4.1 percent vs. 4.0 percent), but overall Domestic loads were weighed down due to trailer issue noted above,” she noted. “In months prior to the issues on the West Coast, domestic and international shipment volumes had moved closer to parity. Domestic intermodal will see a resurgence when over the road capacity begins to tighten, as predicted by many, over the next 12 – 18 months when additional motor carrier regulations come on line.”
The report said that international growth outpaced domestic container growth for a good amount of the third quarter, but at quarter end, domestic growth began to pick up, with a 6.1 percent jump in August, which was preceded by 3.1 percent and 3.0 percent gains in June and July, respectively.
Casey said that intermodal volumes for the quarter were pretty much in line with expectations, although the continued decrease in trailer shipments was a little higher and probably due to the amount of available over the road.
With truckload capacity looser than it was a year ago, Casey said that the market for freight has been more competitive based on looser truckload capacity, coupled with intermodal service providers augmenting their performance and the consistency of that performance to meet the demands of customers.
“The fits and starts of the economic recovery have also contributed to overall volume softness for all modes,” explained Casey.
About the AuthorJeff Berman, Group News Editor Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman
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