IANA reports Q3 volume gains but at a lower rate
Total third quarter intermodal volume movements, at 4,843,308, headed up 4.7% annually.
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Data issued this week by the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) in its “Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics Report” pointed to continued intermodal volume growth in the third quarter, albeit at somewhat reduced levels.
Total third quarter intermodal volume movements, at 4,843,308, headed up 4.7% annually. On a sequential basis, this tops the second quarter’s 4,741,054 and the first quarter’s 4,547,247, with the first quarter tally, at that time, having stood as the best quarter for intermodal in nearly four years, going back to the second quarter of 2014.
While total volume output hit a new high, the 4.7% annual rate of growth was down compared to the first quarter and second quarter annual spreads of 7.2% and 6.2%, respectively.
International, or ISO, containers again paced all intermodal segments volume-wise, rising 4.4% to 2,469,079, which was down compared to the second quarter’s 4.8% annual gain and ahead of the first quarter’s 1.3% increase. Domestic containers headed up 3.9% to 2,013,379, which trailed the second quarter’s 6.1% annual bump and the first quarter’s 6.1% increase. Trailers continued to remain on a strong growth track, rising 12.1% to 359,850, down from 18.1% and 14.5% annual gains in the second and first quarters, respectively.
In the report, IANA explained that the slower growth rate can be largely attributed to stronger annual volume comparisons, as intermodal volumes for the first half of 2017 was weaker and saw a significant uptick in the second half of the year.
What’s more, IANA noted with intermodal growth slower in the third quarter than the first half of 2018, it expects that pattern to continue into the fourth quarter, with gains still expected to remain solid. And it also said that stronger annual comparisons are a key to the fourth quarter, as are slower imports and tighter capacity.
IANA President and CEO Joni Casey explained in an interview that one of the key factors leading to total third quarter volumes coming in softer than the first half of the year was due to international movements.
“International loads were higher earlier in the year as a result of imports being ‘pushed forward’ in advance of new tariffs on Chinese imports,” she said. “Also, Q3 volumes, while still showing gains, were subject to tougher comparisons from last year’s traffic. U.S. East Coast volumes were driven by higher all water movements from East Asia as well as North/South loads.”
As for the decline of domestic containers, Casey said that they were impacted by tougher annual comparisons, which contributed to smaller gains for the segment compared to international loads, with spot capacity issues and equipment dislocations also factored in, too.
With the fourth quarter nearly one-third complete, Casey said intermodal traffic patterns are “normalizing" prior to entering peak holiday shipping season.
“Another rise is expected in the latter months of the year based on anticipated increases in e-commerce volumes, as well as potential import volume surge in advance of additional tariffs kicking in as of January,” she said.
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