First-quarter intermodal traffic posted its highest gains in nearly four years on major U.S. corridors, as trailers continued to outrun container shipments.
Total intermodal volumes climbed 7.2% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2018, the strongest gain since the second quarter of 2014, according to the Intermodal Association of North America’s Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report. Domestic containers increased 6.2%, international intermodal volumes grew 7%, and trailers led overall growth at 14.5%.
“Drivers for first-quarter growth were an overall strong economy, the continued growth of imports, higher diesel fuel prices, tight over-the-road capacity and weak comparisons to lower 2017 volumes in some markets,” said Joni Casey, president and chief executive of IANA.
The seven highest-density trade corridors accounted for 62.8% of total volumes and were collectively up 6.2%. The Northeast-Midwest led with volumes gaining 12.3%. The South Central-Southwest followed at 8%. Traffic on the trans-Canada, intra-Southeast and Midwest-Southwest lanes each grew 6.7%, 6.5% and 5.6%, while the Southeast-Southwest increased 2%. Only the Midwest-Northwest corridor experienced a decline, 4.8%, and its fourth consecutive quarterly loss.
Intermodal marketing companies, which provide transportation and logistics services under contract, had another strong quarter, though slower than the previous quarter, with total loads rising 10.8%, mostly on highway gains. Revenue grew by 27.1% compared to 27.9% growth in 4Q 2017.