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IANA reports decent Q2 annual intermodal growth

Intermodal volume headed up for the third straight quarter, which was immediately preceded by annual declines during the second and third quarters of 2016 and 25 consecutive quarters of growth prior to… By Jeff Berman

Intermodal volume in the second quarter turned in a very strong performance, according to the most recent edition of the Intermodal Market Trends and Statistics report issued by the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) this week.

Intermodal volume headed up for the third straight quarter, which was immediately preceded by annual declines during the second and third quarters of 2016 and 25 consecutive quarters of growth prior to that.

Total second quarter volume movements––at 4,462,604––were up 4.5% annually, which IANA said marked its strongest growth rate in almost three year and far outpacing the first quarter’s 1% annual growth rate. IANA said that a good amount of the annual growth was related to weak annual comparisons, as the second quarter of 2016 was down 6.5% annually.

International, or ISO, containers led the individual intermodal categories tracked by IANA, with a 5.6% annual increase to 2,273,306 for its third consecutive annual increase following two quarters of declines. Domestic containers headed up 3.2 percent to 1,886,926. And trailers were up 3.9% to 302, 372, well ahead of the first quarter’s 0.3% gain.

While international was “the big driver of growth,” according to the report, it also was up against a weak annual comparison, with international down 9.3% during the second quarter of 2016 and the second quarter of 2017 is 4.2% below the second quarter of 2015. IANA said this data reflects that international volumes are still not keeping pace with container import growth, adding that international data in the second quarter was largely dependent on Canada, whose total second quarter loadings were up 13.2%.

IANA President and CEO Joni Casey was hopeful in an interview that international growth remains intact going forward.

“We certainly hope that international shipments continue to track more closely with import volumes,” she said. “That was one of the discrepancies of previous months.  The telling sign of forward momentum will be what occurs over the next several months, which are the typical ‘peak’ season for intermodal volumes.”

On the domestic side, Casey explained that some positive economic indicators, including low unemployment and mildly increasing consumer spending, among others, serve as definite positive signs for increasing gains in domestic intermodal volumes, coupled with Peak Season usually adding what she called a “good dynamic” to the mix.

IMC performance: On a year-to-date basis intermodal marketing companies (IMC) total loads were essentially flat at 1,775,977 (946,687 for the quarter), with intermodal loads up 4.6% at 843,180 (434,034 for the quarter) and highway loads down 3.9% at 932,797 (512,653 for the quarter).

On a sequential basis, total second quarter IMC revenue saw an 11.9% annual gain to $1,869,488,178, with intermodal revenue up 4.7% at $1,115,644,547, and highway revenue up 24.8% at $753,843,631. Average revenue per intermodal load was down 1.3% at $2,570, and average revenue per highway load rose 2.2% at $1,470.

While IMC highway loads were down annually on a year-to-date basis, they were up 22% compared to the first quarter. IANA’s Casey attributed this to over-the-road capacity conditions and competitive pricing.

When asked what the potential impact of the pending December implementation of electronic logging devices on highway loads, she said the jury is still out on that.

“Most think that there will be some effect on highway capacity, but the actual degree of tightening is up in the air,” she said. “It remains to be seen.”

About the author
Jeff 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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