Posts Tagged ‘intermodal traffic’

Intermodal Volume Down in 2nd Quarter

August 6, 2022

Intermodal volume during the second quarter of 2022 declined by 4.3 percent the Intermodal Association of North America reported this week.

IANA said the second quarter volume was 4,630,400 units. The percentage comparison is with a year ago in the second quarter of 2021.

Domestic container volume was up 4 percent to 2,098,606 units but international container traffic dipped 8.4 percent to 2,301,617 units. The number of trailers fell 25.2 percent to 230,177 units.

In a statement, IANA CEO Joni Casey sought to put a positive spin on the numbers, saying the losses were an improvement “relative to the first quarter.” She said second quarter volumes exceeded those of the first quarter by 7.4 percent.

IANA said the seven highest-density trade corridors all posted losses in the second quarter.

This included the Midwest-Northwest corridor at 20.1 percent, the South Central-Southwest corridor at 14.5 percent, the Intra-Southeast at 7.8 percent, the Southeast-Southwest at 5.5 percent and the Midwest-Southwest at 5.3 percent, respectively.

The Northeast-Midwest corridor posted a 3.1 percent decrease and the Trans-Canada corridor saw volumes fall by 2.2 percent.

Intermodal Business There for the Taking if Railroads Can Resolve Staffing, Service Issues

July 15, 2022

Class 1 railroad executives and industry observers say there is plenty of intermodal business out there for the taking.

The Intermodal Association of North America projects that domestic container volume will increase this year by 6.4 percent when compared to 2021 traffic.

But an analysis published on the website of Progressive Railroading found that landing that business will require the carriers to hire and train new operating personnel, solve equipment availability issues, and offer better and more consistent service.

The trade magazine’s analysis found that railroads are making some progress in addressing these issues, have a ways to go and it remains to be seen if the carriers can capture the volume growth that IANA predicts is out there.

Shippers also face issues stemming from higher fuel prices and railroads taking steps to limit congestion on their busiest routes.

These development could play out in adverse ways for shippers as they are gearing up for their peak season later this year. They also could play out during a time when consumer demand for retail goods is strong.

Working in favor of railroads is the fact that for now they are enjoying an economic advantage over trucks due to the latter having to grapple with driver shortages, tight capacity and higher fuel prices.

In some instances, railroads have developed alliances with trucking companies, ocean ports and shippers to better understand supply chain changes.

As has been the case for several months, railroads must deal with equipment imbalances that stem from containers not being unloaded promptly and returned for terminals.

This is being caused by, among other things, understaffed warehouses and distribution centers.

In particular this has led to a chassis shortage that industry observers expect to last into 2023.

A chassis is used to transport containers among ports, rail yards, container depots and shipper facilities. 

The challenge for the Class 1 railroads is taking steps to overcome these issues so that they can tap into the business that is available if they can handle it.

“It’s an exciting time in intermodal,” said CSX Vice President of Intermodal and Automotive Maryclare Kenney. “There are opportunities out there. Demand is strong for the intermodal product.” 

Figures provided by IANA show Class 1 intermodal volume in the first quarter of this year fell 6.6 percent.

The trade association expects intermodal volume to be up 1 percent for all of 2022 buoyed by additional container capacity service routes and increasing staff in the intermodal sector.

Those interviewed by Progressive Railroading all agree that a key to railroads realizing intermodal traffic gains is hiring additional operating personnel.

CSX, for example, has 6,700 train and engine workers but needs 300 more. In a normal year its T&E worker attrition rate is 7 percent. But of late it has risen to 10 percent.

Another key is providing more consistent service, a factor over which railroads have more control.

NS recently began implementing a new operating plan that focused on improving its intermodal operations.

The carrier is revamping intermodal operations to make them more consistent by balancing the flow of shipments through terminals, intermediate yards and the overall network.

It is seeking to eliminate choke points, reduce how much freight is handled en route and changing train schedules to improve and speed up network velocity.

CSX officials say they have reduced dwell time in recent months so that on-time intermodal performance has reached the low 90 percent range as opposed to 87 percent in the first quarter of this year.

The carrier is seeking to get that on-time percentage into the high 90s range.

The article can be read at https://www.progressiverailroading.com/intermodal/article/Class-I-railroads-expect-intermodal-boost-after-several-disruptive-supply-chain-kinks-smooth-out–67015

Intermodal Volume Fell in 1st Quarter

May 1, 2022

The Intermodal Association of North America reported last week that intermodal volume in the first quarter of 2022 fell 6.6 percent to 4,312,905 units compared with 4,616,262 units in the same period of 2021.

Domestic container shipments rose 5.2 percent to 2,046,210 units, but international container volume dropped 15.5 percent to 1,997,046 units and trailer counts fell 12.8 percent to 269,649.

It was the third-smallest quarterly volume in the past four years and followed a 9.8 percent decline in the fourth quarter of 2021 and a 2.9 percent drop in the third quarter of 2021, IANA officials said in the report.

IANA said COVID-19 Omicron surge was evident as January intermodal loadings, which fell 13.3 percent. Loadings in the seven highest-density trade corridors all fell during the first quarter.

“Supply-chain issues continued to impact volumes in the first quarter, especially on the international side,” said IANA President and CEO Joni Casey. “On the other hand, domestic containers stood out for a respectable year-over-year gain. Higher levels of transloading are primarily responsible for this trend.”

North American intermodal volume for 2022 is expected to rise 0.9 percent despite losses during the first half of the year.

Volume should rise in the the second half of 2022 although international container volume is expected to decline 2.8 percent this year with a greater share of imports landing on the East and Gulf Coasts in addition to a larger number of transloads moving in domestic containers off the West Coast.

Increasing transloads and tight trucking conditions should boost domestic container volume by 6.4 percent in 2022, IANA officials said.

RRs Haven’t Benefited From Intermodal Boom

March 12, 2022

An intermodal booms at East Coast ports this has not translated to increased business for railroads, Trains magazine reported on its website.

Instead truckers have cashed in on the record number of containers being handled at East Coast ports.

The magazine’s analysis said trucks have an advantage because many destinations for containers are within 500 miles of the ports, thus making them attractive to truckers, who have captured most of the business in international containers landing at East Coast ports.

Trains said that railroads see incremental gains in traffic in truck-competitive lanes close to or more than 500 miles from Eastern ports, as congestion recedes elsewhere in the supply chain or as railroad network capacities and velocities improve.

The report can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/railroads-yet-to-benefit-from-east-coast-intermodal-boom-analysis/

Intermodal Up in 2021, Down in 4th Quarter

February 2, 2022

Intermodal volume during 2021 had a pattern that became all too familiar to those who follow the weekly traffic reports issued by the Association of American Railroads.

For the year the Intermodal Association of North America said volume was up by 3.6 percent to 18.4 million units when compared with 2020.

But in the fourth quarter of 2021, volume dropped 9.8 percent when compared with the same period of 2020.

All market segments saw declines during the fourth quarter. International containers fell 16.2 percent to 2,013,879 units; trailers fell 10.9 percent to 306,344 units; and domestic containers fell 2.4 percent to 2,076,790 units.

IANA CEO Joni Casey said intermodal traffic  grew during 2021 although at a much slower rate than it did in 2020.

“Performance continues to be affected by the virus, as well as network congestion and the intermittent scarcity of equipment and labor.” Casey said in a news release.

Intermodal Traffic Fell 2.9% in 3rd Quarter

November 2, 2021

The Intermodal Association of North America said that during the third quarter of 2021 intermodal volume fell 2.9 percent compared with the same period in 2020.

IANA said international containers posted a 0.9 percent gain while domestic shipments lost 5.7 percent and trailers were down 11.2 percent.

In a news release IANA officials attributed the overall volume loss to supply chain disruptions, but also noted that the decline “was small relative to the size of this year’s earlier gains and in comparison to the previous 15 months of continuous gains.”

Intermodal Traffic Fell 6.7% in September

October 7, 2021

Figures released by the Association of American Railroads on Wednesday confirmed what has been apparent for several weeks.

Intermodal traffic on U.S. Class 1 railroads is struggling, falling by 6.7 percent in September compared with the same month in 2020.

“Rail intermodal volume is clearly not what it has been and could be,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.

“Keeping intermodal terminals functioning smoothly and at full capacity depends on consistent freight outflows to make room for new freight inflows,” Gray said.

“Unfortunately, due to limited availability of downstream truck and warehouse capacity, that’s not happening right now with predictable impacts on rail intermodal volume. There is no single solution to this problem, but railroads are bringing intermodal yard capacity back online to increase storage availability as well as working with customers and truckers to accelerate container pickup, among other efforts.

Otherwise, rail freight traffic at Class 1 railroads is trending upward with the carriers reporting having handled 1,167,682 carloads in September 2021, an increase of 4.3 percent (or 47,858 carloads) compared with September 2020.

Railroads hauled 1,328,527 containers and trailers, a decline of 95,317 units compared with last year.

Total carload and intermodal originations for September was 2,496,209, down 1.9 percent (or 47,459 carloads and intermodal units) compared with the same month last year.

AAR said 15 of the 20 carload commodity categories it tracks posted gains compared with September 2020.

These included: coal, up 40,954 carloads or 13.7 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 11,107 carloads or 12.5 percent; and primary metal products, up 8,675 carloads or 22.4 percent.

Losing ground last month were motor vehicles and parts, down 22,486 carloads or 27.6 percent; grain, down 17,312 carloads or 14.7 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 1,616 carloads or 3.1 percent.

Excluding coal, carloads increased by 6,904, or 0.8 percent, in September 2021 compared with. September 2020.  Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 24,216, or 3.5 percent.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first nine months of 2021 was 9,009,639, an increase of 7.9 percent, or 658,222 carloads;, and 10,812,108 intermodal units, a 9.9 percent rise, or 976,362 containers and trailers.

Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 39 weeks of the year was 19,821,747 carloads and intermodal units, up 9 percent from the same period in 2020.

INRD Begins Intermodal Terminal Expansion

September 21, 2021

The Indiana Rail Road said it has started the first phase of a project to expand its intermodal services.

The short line railroad based in Indianapolis recently acquired 12 acres of land to expand its intermodal yard in Indianapolis.

This will allow for additional container parking capacity and flexibility and include an onsite chassis depot.

In a news release, INRD said the initial phase involves ground preparation, installation of concrete inbound-outbound traffic lanes with an innovative kiosk gate system for expedited handling.

Future work will include high security fencing, the establishment of rear access service roads, installation of low energy consumption lighting, and construction of two new loading pad tracks.

INRD said the intermodal expansion project is expected to be completed in 2023.

The intermodal terminal opened in 2013 and handled 1,450 containers in its first year.

This year, the terminal is projected to move more than 40,000 containers and recently began a new grain export operation with International Feed.

Supply Chain Congestion Seen as Lasting 6 Months

September 17, 2021

Industry observers expect that the tangled global supply chain will take at least six months to untangle, reported Trains magazine this week on  its website.

The magazine quoted intermodal consultant Larry Gross as saying the strain on the intermodal operations is unprecedented, the worst he has seen in his 41 years in the business.

Gross spoke during a panel discussion at the Intermodal Association of North America’s annual Intermodal Expo event.

Analysts say that a flood of imports driven by an explosion in consumer spending has hindered the supply chain between Asian ports, to U.S. ports to railroad networks and their intermodal terminals.

Also driving the congestion has been the fact that retailers are struggling to keep up with consumer demand because their product inventories dipped during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A record 59 container ships recently were reported to be anchored off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach awaiting berth space.

Lars Jensen of Copenhagen-based Vespucci Maritime told the panel that some of those vessels have been in San Pedro Bay for more than two weeks, delaying the unloading of more than 400,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, the standard measure of international containers.

Much of that cargo will eventually travel to the Midwest and Texas via BNSF or Union Pacific intermodal trains.

Rail intermodal volume has fallen by 10 percent from its May levels and is down 7 percent compared to where it was a year ago at this time.

 “What we really have here is a system starting to bog down from all the operational constraints, congestion, and lower velocity, shortage of equipment, you name it,” Gross said.

He said all links in the supply chain share some of the blame for that congestion.

One panelist, Evan Armstrong of Armstrong & Associates, said railroads are missing an opportunity to pick up business that is instead going to trucking companies.

Yet railroads say shippers have been slow to pick up their containers at intermodal terminals, particularly in Chicago, and that has had a cascading effect.

 Shippers also have been holding containers at their warehouses, which has created a shortage of chassis used to tote containers.

Tim Denoyer, vice president and senior analyst at ACT Research, said the chassis shortage is unlikely to be resolved for another six to 12 months.

Officials at Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, and Canadian Pacific all said during the panel discussion that intermodal systems were in “disarray” around the globe.

They said their intermodal networks have capacity to handle current volumes, but only if all links in the supply chain are working relatively smoothly.

“Everything depends on speed,” said Leggett Kitchin, NS vice president of domestic intermodal. “At the current speeds, the box supply is probably tight.To the extent that we can speed up, and the street can speed up, then we’ll have capacity to grow into.”

AAR Seeks to Forestall Intermodal Regulation

August 13, 2021

The Association of American Railroads warned federal regulators on Thursday that any attempts they might make to regulate intermodal traffic would have unintended consequences and run afoul of congressional intent to keep the railroad industry deregulated.

The railroad trade group acted after U.S. Surface Transportation Board Chairman Martin J. Oberman expressed concerns about how intermodal traffic has slowed due to terminal congestion.

Containers are stacking up at busy terminals on the West Coast and in Chicago and ships are waiting outside harbors to unload containers coming from overseas.

Oberman also discussed how shippers have had to pay railroads large storage and demurrage fees for containers sitting in intermodal terminals.

The latter has led some shippers to ask the STB to intervene.

In its statement, the AAR said regulation of intermodal traffic would not resolve the current congestion issues.

Individual Class 1 carriers have said in letters to the STB that the issues causing the congestion in the supply chain are not the fault of the railroads

Instead, the railroads have pointed to shippers being slow to pick up containers due to labor shortages at warehouses.

“The global supply chain faces unprecedented challenges in its recovery from the global pandemic, caused by factors beyond the Board’s regulatory regime,” AAR Counsel Timothy Strafford wrote in a letter to Oberman.

Strafford’s letter noted that the former Interstate Commerce Commission and the STB itself have broadly exempted from regulation trailer-on-flatcar/container-on-flatcar services “due to the fiercely competitive nature of intermodal traffic.”

He said railroads lack market domination over intermodal shipments and therefore the STB should refrain from regulating storage charges.

AAR said that if regulators were to limit demurrage fees through regulation, shippers would have no incentive to promptly remove containers from intermodal terminals and that would force railroads to further meter inbound container shipments or halt them altogether until the backlog of stored containers can be cleared out.

In recent weeks some Class 1 carriers have restricted the flow of containers to certain terminals in an effort to reduce the number of containers being stored there while awaiting pickup from shippers.

Strafford said in his letter to Oberman that Class I carriers have been working with shippers to keep intermodal terminals and rail networks fluid.