November intermodal data shows solid annual gains, reports IANA

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor ·

December 21, 2020

November intermodal volumes followed a continuing theme of annual gains and mixed year-to-date volumes, according to data provided to LM by the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA). 

Total November shipments—at 1,565,892—saw an 8.6% annual gain. Domestic containers—at 684,694—were up 4.8%, while trailers—at 104,690—were up 12.4%. All domestic equipment—at 789,654—was up 5.7%. ISO, or international, containers—at 776,238—saw an 11.8% increase.

On a year-to-date basis through November, IANA reported the following:

  • domestic containers rose 2.5%, to 7,147,681;
  • trailers were down 5.5%, to 1,062,755;
  • all domestic equipment was up 1.4% to 8,210,436;
  • ISO containers declined 7.7%, to 7,975,520; and
  • total units were down 3.3%, to 16,185,956

A major driver for intermodal gains has been the e-commerce surge spurred on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as inventory restocking efforts, and a domestic equipment bounce back.

In its third quarter report, IANA explained that “ongoing impacts of COVID-19 makes forecasting intermodal changes challenging,” adding that it expects total quarterly intermodal volume to continue to head up over the balance of 2020, at what it called a moderate pace, with: domestic container volumes pegged to increase 2%-to-4%; trailer loads to fall around 6% annually, still improving over double-digit losses year-to-date through July; intermodal is expected to fall at least 8%; and total intermodal volumes are projected to fall between 3%-to-5%.

“Projections have intermodal volumes staying strong through at least the end of this year,” IANA President and CEO Joni Casey told LM. “Given the volatility resulting from COVID-related shutdowns and the impact on the economy, it’s hard to tell what traffic will do going into Q1 of 2021.”   

Addressing the impact of still-tight truckload capacity as a driver for intermodal gains, Casey said that is definitely a reason for gains in domestic intermodal volumes, along with the significant increases in e-commerce shipments.  And she added that the pairing of inventory replenishment occurring in tandem with strong import volumes a major boost for intermodal, and e-commerce volume growth are also major catalysts.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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