November 1, 2019

Intermodal freight volumes dropped 3.7% in third quarter

Causes included loose trucking capacity, Chinese tariff uncertainty, and decline from high 2018 statistics, IANA says.

By DC Velocity Staff

Intermodal freight volumes throughout the U.S. dropped 3.7% year-over-year in the third quarter of 2019 due to three factors: looser trucking capacity, continuing uncertainty about Chinese tariffs, and tough comparisons to 2018 volumes, a trade group reported today.

International shipments slipped down 0.8% from 2018, domestic containers dropped 4.9%, and trailers tumbled 17.6%, according to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA)'s "Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report."

In historical context, both intermodal and highway loads were down for only the third time since the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 that followed the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble and a resulting global liquidity crisis, according to the Calverton, Md.-based intermodal trade group.

Those conditions are expected to continue at least halfway through 2020, according to the group's forecast. "The rest of the year is projected to be flat, but a turnaround is anticipated by Q2 of next year," IANA President and CEO Joni Casey said.

Broken out by region, the seven highest-density trade corridors, which collectively handled 62.8% of total volume, were down 3.1% , IANA said.

Three of those corridors actually posted increases for Q3, led by the Southeast-Southwest lane at 3.3% followed by the Intra-Southeast with 1.8%, and Trans-Canada with 1.3%. Those gains were offset by decreases in four other corridors: the Midwest-Northwest at 2.1%; the Southwest-Midwest, 4.1%; the South Central-Southwest, 6.6%; and the Northeast-Midwest, 7.3%.

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