Domestic container gains continue in 2Q

Domestic containers once again provided the only positive intermodal volumes, up 0.9%, as the economic climate continued to hamper intermodal results in the second quarter.

Advances were in 53-foot equipment, which jumped 5%; this segment now represents 95% of all domestic container loads. Domestic container volume increased in the majority of Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) regions, with the Mountain Central region posting the largest percentage jump: a 17% gain. The Midwest region—the largest domestic container region—saw a 4% increase. However, overall year-over-year intermodal volume comparisons worsened during the quarter, with total volume dropping 18.7%.

International volume, which still accounted for more than half of all intermodal shipments despite its recent downtrend, fell for a ninth consecutive quarter. It dropped at a double-digit pace in every region, with western Canada seeing the smallest decrease in volume, while the Northwest experienced the largest. Trailer shortfalls accelerated during the quarter as domestic freight continued its migration to containers; volume fell 26.9% compared with minus 20.6% in first quarter 2009. Trailer volume has now fallen during 16 of the past 18 quarters, interrupted only by a brief period of growth in mid-2008. All trailer sizes, including the standard 53-foot length, fell during the quarter, with total quarterly trailer volume falling below 400,000 loads for the first time since IANA started reporting in 1996.

Intermodal marketing companies fared a bit better than overall intermodal results for the quarter, with the year-over-year shortfall in IMC volume shrinking by nearly half. IMC intermodal volume performance improved for the period, increasing 7.3% from the first quarter.

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