Domestic intermodal volumes continued their upward climb in the first quarter of 2012, according to the latest figures from the Intermodal Association of North America.
Domestic volumes soared 14.9 percent in the quarter, to nearly 1.3 million containers. IANA attributed the rise to market share growth from trucking, “as trucking capacity was tight during the quarter and diesel prices resumed their rise after softening in Q4 2011."
International intermodal volume rose 2.9 percent to 1.8 million containers, while total intermodal volume rose 5.8 percent to 3.3 million units.
The international gain “on the surface pales in comparison to the strength of domestic containers,” IANA said. “Yet, a closer look at the numbers suggests that international intermodal’s Q1 performance was actually much stronger than the year-over year growth rate would suggest. International intermodal shipments advanced 9.6 percent in Q1 2011. This strong performance was driven by the need for retailers to replenish inventories after a better-than-expected holiday sales season. The booming growth in the first quarter of 2011 has made comparisons more challenging for Q1 2012.”
Eric Starks, president of FTR Associates, which specializes in freight transportation forecasting, said the balance between domestic and international intermodal has been edging toward domestic in recent years.
At the National Industrial Transportation League’s Freight Policy Forum in Washington Tuesday, Starks said the ratio was 58 percent international/42 percent domestic in 2005, but had changed to 53 percent international/47 percent domestic in 2011.
“As international freight demand picks up, that might change back,” he said. - Eric Johnson