Overall intermodal traffic recorded its first volume decline in the second quarter of the year following 25 consecutive quarters of growth, according to new report from the Intermodal Association of North America.
IANA found that Intermodal trailer volumes dropped 28.6%, continuing a multi-year downward trend, while international shipments fell 9.3%. Domestic container loads gained 3.4%, tempering the overall loss to 6.1%. The total number of intermodal loads fell to 4.28 million from 4.55 million a year earlier.
"The second quarter intermodal volume numbers reflected current market conditions," said Joni Casey, president and CEO of IANA. "Year-end projections are still tracking for growth in both the domestic container and international volumes, however."
The seven highest-density trade corridors, accounting for nearly two-thirds of total intermodal volume, collectively dropped 5.9% year-over-year, with each corridor showing a loss. In the Southeast-Southwest and the Northeast- Midwest lanes, container performance offset the drop in trailer volumes, resulting in the smallest declines of all the corridors. Containers did the opposite in the South Central-Southwest corridor, which finished the quarter in negative territory by 17.6%.
Likewise, every region showed second quarter declines, ranging from 1.6% in Mexico to 14.9% in the South Central. The fall in international shipments between the Southwest and South Central regions was enough to pull down the overall international numbers for the quarter, according to IANA. Regional results also varied by exposure to trailers. Regions that saw the least trailer activity, including Mexico, the Northwest and Western Canada, came the closest to breaking even.
Intermodal service providers again demonstrated clear gains in the highway sector, up 17% from the previous year, thanks to excess trucking capacity. Intermodal loads fell 18.1% The net result was a total volume decrease of 3.2%.