Significant mid-year gains, paired with across-the-board growth in the final quarter of last year, contributed to strong overall intermodal freight performance in 2014, according to new figures from the Intermodal Association of North America.
Despite the harsh winter that kicked off the year, it reported intermodal freight volume improved 4.8% in 2014, with domestic containers leading growth and international intermodal delivering its biggest year-over-year advance since 2011.
“Intermodal performed well, despite industry-wide challenges,” said Joni Casey, president and CEO of IANA, the industry trade association that represents the combined interests of the intermodal freight industry. “For the first time in four years, international, domestic container, and trailer market segments all posted year-over-year growth. And volume gains were widespread geographically, with eight out of nine regions recording increases during 2014.”
Domestic containers lead all gains in 2014, growing 5.7% year-over-year. Big boxes have remained the intermodal workhorse for four years straight, and for seven of the last eight years, according to IANA.
International almost doubled its growth pace of the last three years, reporting a 4.4% increase in 2014. This uptick puts international loadings just 4% below pre-recession levels. Trailer volumes also reported volume improvements, with a 2.9% growth rate year-over-year.
In the fourth quarter of 2014 there was a relatively soft 3% growth rate, but gains were broad-based. Domestic containers once again led the way with a 5.1% increase from the same time a year earlier. International containers grew 2.1% over the same time period, with trailers squeezing out a 0.1% boost, which is more than it appears given this segment’s solid showing in fourth quarter of 2013, according to the group.
Intermodal marketing companies reported solid intermodal revenue growth in the fourth quarter, with average revenue for intermodal loads up by 3.6%. These companies also reported a 1.5% gain in volumes from third quarter 2014 levels, which IANA described as “respectable” but “runs counter to normal seasonal trends and could be a signal that this segment is regaining some traction.”