Intermodal Growth Extends Across All Markets; Trailers and ISO Containers Return To Positive Growth

Domestic container volume continued to lead intermodal growth, posting a year-over-year increase of 9.4%, and combined with a 1.2% boost in intermodal trailer volume for the same period, all domestic equipment experienced 7.6% year-over-year gains during the third quarter of 2013.

Midwest Maintains Position as Largest Share of Intermodal Traffic, Bests Q3 Industry Growth Average

Calverton, MD Total intermodal traffic grew in the third quarter of 2013 by 4.7 percent, year-over-year, attributable to gains across the board. Domestic container volume continued to lead intermodal growth, posting a year-over-year increase of 9.4 percent, and combined with a 1.2 percent boost in intermodal trailer volume for the same period, all domestic equipment experienced 7.6 percent year-over-year gains during the third quarter of 2013. 

Also contributing to the increase in total intermodal traffic was a slight uptick in international volume which posted a 2013 Q3 gain of 2 percent over 2012. If jobs, consumer spending and/or the broader economy accelerate, a slow but steady growth trend is likely for the international market.

“For the tenth quarter in a row, domestic container volume flexed its muscles and has outpaced international shipments driving the gains in total intermodal traffic,” said Joni Casey, president and CEO of IANA. “It is also worth noting that the trailer segment grew in all three months of Q3, reversing three years of decline and contributed to domestic growth.”

Third Quarter 2013 Intermodal Volume Comparisons


Q3 marks the first time seasonally adjusted domestic shipments exceeded international shipments. This milestone was achieved after a decade of domestic service improvement and five years of accelerated volume gains. A contributing factor was weak international container trade volumes during the recession followed by an inconsistent rebound. 

The Midwest continued to account for the largest regional percentage of intermodal shipments in North America, reflecting 28 percent of total volume. Traffic in this region increased by 5.1 percent, thanks in part to strong inbound and outbound container numbers, besting the industry average of 4.7 percent.

The Southeast region led intermodal in the third quarter of 2013, boasting an 11.3 percent gain over the same period last year according to IANA’s Market Trends data. Following immediately behind was the Northeast region, which posted an 8.3 percent gain compared to Q3 2012. The Midwest maintained its year-over-year Q3 hold on the largest percentage share of regional traffic, with 28 percent.

Year-over-year intermodal marketing company (IMC) volume improved significantly in Q3, growing 5.7 percent as compared to 1.1 percent in Q2. Improving imports and transload volumes played a large role in the IMC business surge.

Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics is published quarterly by IANA and is available on a subscription and individual copy basis. Members of the press may request a sample copy of the Q3 2013 Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics from Tara Mullen at  The report features detailed analyses and reproducible graphical representations of Q3 2013 results.   

IANA is North America's only industry trade association that represents the combined interests of the intermodal freight industry. The association’s mission is to promote the growth of efficient intermodal freight transportation through innovation, education and dialogue. The association offers valuable information and services specific to the intermodal industry encompassing consensus business solutions that facilitate: operations, regulatory compliance, and policy issue management. IANA's membership roster of over 1,000 members represents the diverse companies critical to moving freight efficiently and safely. IANA provides a discussion forum for the many types of stakeholders along the supply chain, resulting in a strong unified voice advocating the needs of intermodal freight transportation. For more information, visit


More in Operations