New reports show that intermodal rail traffic was at an all-time high for the month of October. In addition to the increase in rail traffic, there has also been an increase in truck traffic. What do these statistics mean, and are they pointing to an even more significant revelation? Let’s take a look at the present state and future expectations of intermodal traffic in the United States.
The October Intermodal Report
According to reports from the Association of American Railroads, intermodal rail volume increased by 4.9 percent to its highest level on record. In total, the volume rose to 1.5 million units, with a weekly average of 276,350 containers. That number was also the highest on record.
October also marked the 59th straight month of intermodal increases. According to John Gray, senior vice president of the Association of American Railroads, “In the first 10 months of 2014, total US carload plus intermodal volume was 24.3 million units, which is over 1 million units more than in the first 10 months of 2013 and the highest year-to-date total since 2007.”
Of the 20 different categories tracked, 15 saw year-over-year increases since October 2013. Petroleum and petroleum products led the way with a 20.7 percent increase.
Over the first 44 weeks of 2014, US railroads moved more than 11.5 million containers and trailers – a 5.5 percent year-over-year increase.
Record Trucking Numbers
It seems that intermodal transportation isn’t the only sector seeing considerable growth. According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), total tonnage is up 3.2 percent when compared with the same period of time last year. If you ask the ATA, the surge in truck tonnage is a positive sign for the American economy. Officials claim that “trucking serves as a barometer of the US economy, representing 69.1% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods.”
Looking Beyond the Numbers
When you look past the numbers and statistical data, you begin to see what the future holds for intermodal freight transportation. According to William DeWitt of the University of Maryland and Jennifer Clinger of the Louis Berger Group Inc., the 21st century will be marked by a renewed focus on freight transportation as a result of the “changing requirements of global supply chain.”
DeWitt and Clinger claim the growth of intermodal freight transportation is being driven – and will continue to be driven – by four distinct factors. They are (1) changing customer requirements, (2) the need to nimbly respond to the changing customer requirements with integrated coordination of freight flows, (3) the potential for improved communications technology, and (4) constraints on infrastructure capacity and regulatory issues.
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