Surprise finding: Shorter-haul intermodal not gaining

April 19, 2010
According to recent analysis by the transportation forecasting firm FTR Associates, the share of domestic intermodal revenue movements accounted for by moves of 1,000 miles or less has declined in the past year

According to recent analysis by the transportation forecasting firm FTR Associates, the share of domestic intermodal revenue movements accounted for by moves of 1,000 miles or less has declined in the past year. FTR said domestic intermodal equipment moving less than 1,000 miles accounted for 42% of total North American domestic equipment revenue moves, down 1% from the same period in 2009.

Similarly, the analysis showed that movements of less than 1,500 miles also declined in importance, by 1.2% during the same period. Domestic intermodal equipment consists of trailers plus 48- and 53-ft long containers. The analysis, based on Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) ETSO data, is contained in the April 2010 issue of FTR’s Intermodal Monthly Update.

“Given the recent emphasis placed on shorter-haul markets by major intermodal players and the eastern railroads, these results are somewhat surprising,” said Lawrence Gross, senior consultant for FTR and author of the analysis. “The number of domestic equipment revenue movements of less than 1,500 miles in Q4 2009 was lower than 12 months earlier, even as such movements of greater than 1,500 miles increased”.

Gross said the study also revealed another interesting factor: “Domestic intermodal is particularly weak in the 1,000 to 2,000 mile range. This accounts for a far lower percentage of movements than either the 750 to 1,000 mile range or the 2,000 to 2,500 mile range. We believe this is because most moves of between one and two thousand miles involve more than one railroad and the need to interchange impedes intermodal’s ability to compete”.

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