Intermodal volumes finish Q4 and full-year strong, says IANA
February 11, 2011 - LM Editorial
Intermodal volumes continued the solid trends which have been occurring throughout 2010 with a strong fourth quarter and 2010, according to the quarter Market Trends report from the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).
Fourth quarter intermodal loadings—at 3,451,011—were up 12.8 percent year-over-year. And for all of 2010 they came in at 13,390,104 for a 14.7 percent gain.
The four major intermodal categories IANA tracks were up on a quarterly and annual basis. Domestic containers—at 1,163,707—were up 8.9 percent for the quarter. International containers—at 1,841,451—were up 16.9 percent (marking the third time since the second half of 2006 that international topped domestic containers. All domestic equipment—at 1,609,569—was up 8.4 percent, and trailers—at 445,853—were up 7.3 percent (trailers have been down 19 of the last 24 quarters).
For all of 2010: trailers were up 3.7 percent at 1,664,064; domestic containers were up 13.3 percent at 4,488,311; all domestic equipment was up 6,152,375 at 10.6 percent; and international containers at 7,237,729 were up 18.5 percent.
The growth on the international side was the best output for a full year since 1996, with international containers leading overall gains as the intermodal network digested rebounding imports, the report explained.
“The fourth quarter was much stronger than anticipated,” said Tom Malloy, IANA Vice President of Member Services. “The year-over-year comparisons in 2011 will be more difficult. January 2010 was a down month, so it will be somewhat easier to ‘look better’ in January 2011. It will likely take until April to get a strong year-over-year comparison, due to ebbs and flows in the front part of the year tied to Chinese New Year, with factories shut down for 20-to-30 days and impacting the import flow.”
IANA reported that domestic container volumes remained strong during the recession and benefited from an ongoing conversion from trailers to more efficient containers and healthy growth in transloading of imported freight.
Another bright spot cited by IANA is the surge in domestic container volume, with tight driver capacity and increasing fuel prices helping to further that trend, which resulted in railroads and their partners delivering in the form of improved service, expanded lanes and significant investment in new container capacity.
“Throughout 2010, private box owners were anticipating a sustained demand, because the amount of domestic containers that will be in play in 2011 is about 20,000-to-30,000 more containers than there were at the beginning of 2010,” said Malloy. “In December 2009, there were 165,000 domestic containers, and for the year-end forecast of 2011, we are hearing that number will jump to 210,000 for an extra 45,000 containers in a 24-month period.”
Even with such a significant jump in domestic containers, Malloy said it is difficult to determine if the amount of domestic container production capacity in 2011 is already purchased and spoken for, because they are manufactured overseas and there is limited visibility into order activity and if manufacturers are capable of meeting those orders. He added that there is often a three-to-six month lag from the time an order is placed to the time it is received, with domestic container owners anticipating increased demand to be sustainable.
IMC Performance: Intermodal Marketing Companies largely saw percentage gains on an annual basis in the fourth quarter, with intermodal loads—at 284,752—up 8.0 percent, highway loads down 9.7 percent at 142,763, and total loads up 1.3 percent at 427,515. For all of 2010, total IMC loads came in at 1,709,820 for a 6.0 percent annual increase. Intermodal loads in 2010 were up 12.9 percent and highway loads were down 5.1 percent.
IMC intermodal and highway revenue for the fourth quarter—at $688,593,988 and $195,438, 891—were up 16.9 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively. Total revenue—at $884,032,889—was up 13.8 percent. Average revenue per intermodal load—at $2,339—was up 1.3 percent and average revenue per highway load—at $2,418—was up 8.3 percent, and average revenue per highway load—at $1,369—was up 15.3 percent.
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