Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics - 4th Quarter 2016 - 1
Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics
2016 Fourth Quarter and Year-End Report
The intermodal growth engine finally stalled in 2016. Overall intermodal volume fell 2.1% last year, pulled
down by weak international volume and plunging trailer loadings. Declines occurred in Q2 and Q3, with a
modest rebound in Q4. While the economy was growing, though modestly, freight recession was a challenging 2016 reality that finally weighed on the intermodal market. Even with that, the domestic container
market continued to post steady growth in an otherwise challenging year.
Many expect the intermodal market to turn positive again, if only moderately so, in 2017. With already
volatile results in the international and trailer segments combined with potential policy changes that could
affect the industry, IANA's Market Trends and Statistics are even more important than ever for providing
the data and analysis that explain intermodal trends. Following are the top stories for 2016 as told by the
Domestic container volume continued its growth
despite some of the broader freight market
weakness, posting a 4% full year gain in 2016. Q4
of 2016 was the 46th consecutive quarter during
which the big box market posted year-over-year
Domestic containers continued to gain share of
long-haul freight in 2016, rising by 4% while longhaul truckloads, as reported by FTR Intelligence,
rose just 1%. This estimate also reflects that
domestic containers and trailers are serving
different markets, with big boxes focused on
truckload, while trailers are heavily driven by
parcels, LTL and Roadrailers.
Transloads from international to domestic
containers boosted the domestic container market
in 2016. Estimated transloads in the Southwest,
the largest import region, rose 6% in 2016. They
also rose 8% in the Northwest and 5% in Western
Canada. (IANA data is a key factor in the estimate
of intermodal transloads.)
2016 saw a historic change in the relationship
between imports and international intermodal
loadings. For example, in 2016 United States
container imports rose 3.7% while international
loadings fell 3.2%. Over the prior five years,
both imports and international grew, with U.S.
intermodal loadings rising at about half the pace of
Fourth Quarter Year-End 2016 © IANA 2017
More than half of the total drop in international
volume was in a single lane - as reported
by IANA - Southwest to/from South Central.
International loadings in that lane fell by over 14%.
This reflected a large shift in container imports
from the U.S. West Coast to the U.S. Gulf. Imports
to the U.S. Gulf rose by an average of 16%
monthly in the second half of 2016.
The Southeast was an international hot spot
in 2015, with origins in that region increasing
15%. That region's loads fell 2% in 2016, despite
continue gains in imports. This likely reflected
tougher truck competition for imports compared
Trailer volume, the most highway competitive
sector of intermodal, fell 23% in 2016 compared
to a 22% drop in 2009 - the year of the Great
Recession. A significant part of this decline was
Triple Crown's exit from major parts of their
Total intermodal volumes ended the year 2.1%
lower than 2015 levels. This is the first time since
2008 that total intermodal loadings declined.
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