Intermodal hits record high

Intermodal transport’s share of U.S. long-haul truck traffic reached record highs in the first quarter of 2010, a recent analysis by FTR Associates shows.

Both total intermodal movements and movements of domestic intermodal equipment reached new market share highs. Intermodal’s share of U.S. long-haul (550-plus miles) movements of international and domestic containerized freight in the first quarter of 2010 was about 13.5 percent.

“This marks the fourth consecutive share increase for intermodal,” said Lawrence Gross, FTR senior consultant. “The sector was hitting on all cylinders during the first quarter.”

Domestic sector market share resumed growing after a pause in the fourth quarter of last year, continuing a solid upward trend that began as early as the 2007 third quarter, Gross said. “Meanwhile, the international sector continued to recover from its pronounced downturn, with international intermodal shipments growing faster than overall long-haul truck,” he said. “This is also an indication that the previous trend of such shipments being diverted to all-water routing via the Panama Canal has abated.”

Gross expects the future to remain positive for intermodal. “The stars are aligning for what could be an acceleration in intermodal share growth,” he said. “Active truck capacity is coming into balance with demand, and even a modest increase in freight demand could lead to shortages of truck drivers and truck capacity, resulting in more opportunity for intermodal. Increases in fuel prices and the continued rebound in international shipments will also aid share growth.”

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