Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Domestic containers drive 1Q intermodal gains

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Whatever woes coal volumes are posing for North American railroads in 2012, domestic intermodal container traffic seems determined to offset them, at least in part. First-quarter domestic container volume moving by truck and train rose 14.9% measured against the comparable 2011 quarter, the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) reported Tuesday.

IANA's Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report said much of the volume gains "can be attributed to market share growth, as trucking capacity was tight during the quarter and diesel prices resumed their rise after softening in Q4 2011. Domestic container gains were biggest in the East, where intermodal faces more competition from trucking."

Overall intermodal volume gained an impressive 5.8% during the first quarter.

International intermodal volume also helped fuel the increasein overall volume, though seemingly more modestly, at 2.9% compared with the same quarter a year ago. "2Yet, 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% 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," IANA said.

Intermodal trailer shipments declined 6.9% in the first quarter compared with a year ago, which IANA said also was partly due "to stronger comparisons – in Q1 2011, trailers gained a robust 7.4%."

'Domestic container gains may slow in coming months as comparisons to the previous year become more competitive, but international growth will likely accelerate.," IANA said. "Overall, we believe container shipments should maintain their strong growth rate through the year."

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