Domestic intermodal had its best performance this quarter since the second quarter of 2004, according to a report released by the Intermodal Association of North America.

The association reported that a 10.5 percent gain in domestic containers coupled with moderate domestic trailer volumes pushed overall domestic volume up 6.7 percent. According to the Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report published by the Intermodal Association of North America, this performance helped boost overall year-to-date domestic growth up by 4.7 percent.

Domestic container growth was driven by a 16.1 percent surge in 53-foot containers, while all other container sizes posted declines during the quarter. Domestic container gains were particularly strong in the Midwest-Northeast corridor, where eastbound shipments increased 15 percent, while westbound shipments increased 6 percent. And a first in more than three years, trailers had their second consecutive quarter of volume gains, which were primarily driven by a 10.4 percent increase in 53-foot units.

Continued weakness in consumer spending depressed container imports and overall international results. While international volume declined 6.1 percent in Q3 08 compared to Q3 07, the 2008 year to date figure was down 5.7 percent. In spite of a weak economy, total intermodal volume has held up relatively well. To date, shipments are only 1.6 percent below last year's numbers.

If economic concerns worsen, IANA says, it appears unlikely that we will see a noticeable rebound in international volume during the next few quarters, but domestic should continue its solid performance as road-to-rail conversion opportunities are expected to remain an attractive transportation option for many shippers.

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