A late-year need to refill store shelves and replenish other stocks after a “historic inventory drawdown” helped boost intermodal traffic in the fourth quarter and push domestic volume slightly ahead of the 2008 period, said the Intermodal Association of North America.
That was the first quarter in more than a year to see growth for domestic traffic, the group said, as “shippers rebuilt depleted stocks” and as “domestic container shipments improved steadily through the fourth quarter.”
Shipments carried in all types of domestic equipment rose 0.8 percent from a year earlier, to 1.484 million loads, IANA said. That includes a 9 percent surge in volume handled in large 48- and 53-ft. domestic containers, to 1.069 million, while the number of trailer-on-chassis intermodal shipments fell 15.4 percent to 415,455.
Increasingly, major intermodal trucking firms have shifted into containers for their efficiency, and especially into the jumbo 53-footers.
Shipments on trains of international containers – which run 20-, 40- and 45-ft. in length – plunged 12.3 percent in the quarter to 1.575 million units. That left combined domestic and international loadings down 6.4 percent from the 2008 quarter to 3.059 million units.
That was a slower decline than earlier in the year. For all of 2009, combined traffic was down 14.6 percent to 11.67 million units. (See also “Domestic Container Traffic Rises 2.9 Percent in 2009”).
Analysts look for overall intermodal growth in 2010 of 1.5-2.5 percent, which would be “a welcome respite from the rough tumble of the past three years,” IANA said.
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