Intermodal transport's share of U.S. long-haul truck traffic reached record highs during the first quarter 2010
, according to FTR Associates. Total intermodal as well as domestic intermodal equipment set records in the first quarter.

In the first quarter, intermodal's share of U.S. long-haul movements of international and domestic containerized freight was estimated to be 13.5 percent, FTR says. That's up from 13.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

"This marks the fourth consecutive share increase for intermodal," said Lawrence Gross, senior consultant for FTR and principal author of the Intermodal Update. "The sector was hitting on all cylinders during the first quarter. Domestic sector market share resumed growing after a pause in the fourth quarter of last year, continuing a solid upward trend that began as early as Q3 2007. Meanwhile, the international sector continued to recover from its pronounced downturn, with international intermodal shipments growing faster than overall long-haul truck. This is also an indication that the previous trend of such shipments being diverted to all-water routing via the Panama Canal has abated."

Gross expects intermodal to continue its growth in the future. "Active truck capacity is coming into balance with demand, and even a modest increase in freight demand could lead to shortages of truck drivers and hence, truck capacity, resulting in more opportunity for intermodal. Increases in fuel prices and the continued rebound in international shipments will also aid share growth."

Story updated 5/11/2010 12:45 a.m. EDT to clarify fourth quarter 2009 vs. first quarter 2010 numbers.