Intermodal Posts Gain in Fourth Quarter

February 03, 2017

Intermodal Posts Gain in Fourth Quarter

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Intermodal freight volumes returned to growth in the fourth quarter, posting a 1.0 percent year-over-year increase that tempered volume declines earlier in 2016, according to the Intermodal Association of North America’s fourth quarter and year-end Intermodal Market Trends and Statistics report.

The fourth quarter improvement, which totaled 4.35 million shipments for the three months, was achieved despite an ongoing freight recession that permeated the transportation industry, and resulted in lower intermodal volumes during the second and third quarters. Shipment declines during those quarters led to a decline of 2.1 percent in total intermodal volumes for the year compared with 2015. The total of 17.1 million shipments was the first full-year decline since 2008.

“While full-year totals didn’t meet our original expectations, we turned the corner in November and December,” said Joni Casey, president and CEO of IANA. “The 4 percent increase in domestic container volume during 2016 is a consistent and positive indicator of long term growth for the industry.”

Domestic container gains were 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter and international shipments returned to growth for the period, increasing 0.6 percent. Declines continued in the trailer segment, which fell 9.2 percent.

The seven highest-density trade corridors, accounting for 63.3 percent of total intermodal volume, collectively were up 1.8 percent in the quarter, above the industry average of 1.0 percent. The Midwest-Northwest and Northeast-Midwest lanes saw the largest Q4 increases at 4.3 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively. Midwest-Southwest volumes, which were the highest, grew 1.4 percent. The South Central-Southwest lane, the only major lane to post a decline, fell 4.4 percent on container losses.

Intermodal Marketing Companies again demonstrated clear gains in the highway market sector. Thanks to excess trucking capacity and low fuel prices, highway volumes were up 37.3 percent from same quarter the previous year. Intermodal loads fell 11.2 percent. The net result for reporting IMCs was a total volume increase of 10.0 percent.

Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics is published quarterly by IANA and is available on a subscription and individual copy basis. Members of the press may request a sample copy of the 2016 Fourth Quarter and Year-End Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics from Art Cleaver at The report features detailed analyses and reproducible graphical representations of Q4 2016 results.

IANA is North America's only industry trade association that represents the combined interests of the intermodal freight industry. The association’s mission is to promote the growth of efficient intermodal freight transportation through innovation, education and dialogue. The association offers valuable information and services specific to the intermodal industry encompassing consensus business solutions that facilitate: operations, regulatory compliance, and policy issue management. IANA's membership roster of over 1,000 members represents the diverse companies critical to moving freight efficiently and safely. IANA provides a discussion forum for the many types of stakeholders along the supply chain, resulting in a strong unified voice advocating the needs of intermodal freight transportation. For more information, visit