In its Q4 and year-end Intermodal Market Trends report the Intermodal Association of North America said the Q4 result “tempered volume declines earlier in 2016”, but the full year was still characterised by “an ongoing freight recession that permeated the transportation industry, and resulted in lower intermodal volumes during the second and third quarters”.
In Q4 domestic containers grew 3.4% to 1.8M units, while growth returned to international ISO containers (up 0.6% to 2.1M containers). Trailer volume continued its downward trend, falling 9.2% to 331,964 units.
For the full 2016 year, gains in the domestic intermodal business failed to offset falling international volumes and lower trailer numbers. The total of 17.1 million shipments was down 2.1%, the first full-year decline IANA has recorded since 2008. Domestic containers grew 4% to 7.3M, while international ISO containers fell 3.3% to 8.5M. Trailer volume suffered a steep 22.6% decline to 1.2M units.
“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.”
IANA also monitors Intermodal Marketing Companies, and these made significant gains in the highway sector in Q4. “Thanks to excess trucking capacity and low fuel prices, highway volumes were up 37.3% from same quarter the previous year. Intermodal loads fell 11.2%. The net result for reporting IMCs was a total volume increase of 10.0%,” IANA reported.