Markets may be expected to become more efficient as they evolve. The North American intermodal industry appears ready to buck that trend in 2013, however, as developments in trucking and chassis management threaten to render the system more fragmented and inefficient.
To begin with, “carrier haulage” moves have declined dramatically in North America over the last several years. Five years ago, the top 20 ocean carriers managed more than 70 percent of intermodal moves on a door-to-door basis; today they barely reach 30 percent, with the majority of moves now organized and paid for by a much more disparate number of third-party logistics providers and beneficial cargo owners.
Add to this scenario the evolving chassis situation. The shift of ownership aside, it seems probable that more entities will become involved in the billing and management of chassis.
These developments bring complexity that, unchecked, could render the intermodal industry in North America less efficient. Increasing fragmentation makes cost-saving initiatives such as street turns and improved chassis utilization more difficult to coordinate.
Countering this trend, fortunately, is the ability to connect such disparate parties electronically using cloud-based, “pay-as-you-go” systems. Making full use of such systems will be the key to combating the costly inefficiency market developments may bring.