In a sign railroads continue to take long-haul freight market share from over-the-road trucks, intermodal's share of surface transport traffic reached record highs in the first quarter, according to a study released May 10 by consultancy FTR Associates.
According to FTR's estimates, the share of all intermodal movements—both trailer and container moves of 550 miles and longer—reached 13.5 percent in the first quarter, up from 13.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 and the fourth consecutive quarterly share gain.
Intermodal "was hitting on all cylinders during the first quarter," said Lawrence Gross, senior consultant for Nashville, Ind.-based FTR and author of the report.
Gross said intermodal's domestic share resumed growing after a pause in the fourth quarter of 2009, continuing an upward trend that began nearly three years ago. At the same time, international intermodal movements have rebounded from a prolonged downturn and are growing at a faster rate than the long-haul truck sector, Gross said.
The data also indicate that railroads are recapturing traffic that previously had been moving from Asia to the United States in all-water routings via the Panama Canal, Gross said.
Intermodal should continue to benefit from a recent uptick in diesel fuel prices, a continued recovery in international shipments, and a shortage of truck capacity and drivers as a long-awaited rebound in freight demand outstrips the available supply of over-the-road trucks, Gross said.
The FTR report was sourced from its own research as well as data provided by the Intermodal Association of North America.