However, the Intermodal Association of North America said some analysts are projecting a rebound for 2017.
The Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) said intermodal volume fell 2.1 percent in 2016, driven down by weak international volume and lower trailer loadings.
“Many expect the intermodal market to turn positive again, if only moderately so, in 2017,” the group said.
“While full-year totals didn’t meet our original expectations, we turned the corner in November and December,” IANA President and CEO Joni Casey said. “The 4 percent increase in domestic container volume during 2016 is a consistent and positive indicator of long-term growth for the industry.”
For the full year of 2016, when compared to 2015:
• Domestic container volume increased 4 percent to 7.36 million units;
• Trailer volume decreased 22.6 percent to 1.23 million units;
• And international or “ISO” container volume decreased 3.3 percent to 8.54 million units.
For the fourth quarter of 2016, when compared to Q4 2015:
• Domestic container volume increased 3.4 percent to 1.9 million units;
• Trailer volume decreased 9.2 percent to 331,964 units;
• And ISO container volume increased 0.6 percent to 2.12 million units.
“Intermodal Marketing Companies again demonstrated clear gains in the highway market sector,” IANA said. “Thanks to excess trucking capacity and low fuel prices, highway volumes were up 37.3 percent from same quarter the previous year. Intermodal loads fell 11.2 percent. The net result for reporting IMCs was a total volume increase of 10.0 percent.
“Domestic containers continued to gain share of long-haul freight in 2016, rising by 4 percent while long-haul truckloads, as reported by FTR Intelligence, rose just 1 percent.”
IANA added, “This estimate also reflects that domestic containers and trailers are serving different markets, with big boxes focused on truckload, while trailers are heavily driven by parcels, LTL and Roadrailers.”
IANA said transloading of cargo from international to domestic containers boosted the domestic container market in 2016. Estimated transloads in the Southwest, the largest import region, rose 6 percent in 2016. They also rose 8 percent in the Northwest and 5 percent in Western Canada.