The U.S. economy emerged from its recession during the first quarter of 2010 as increased consumer demand and inventory acquisition prompted a significant rise in total inter’modal volume. Domestic container volume posted the strongest growth, rising 15.7% year-over-year. Compared to 0.1% growth during Q1 09, this new growth indicates the up-tick is not just a rebound from last year’s depressed volume levels. Domestic con’tainer increases expanded monthly during the quarter, ranging from 10% in Janu’ary to more than 20% during March. All U.S. regions recorded increases in domestic container volume greater than 10% year-over-year while Cana’dian domestic container shipments were down 1.0%, hindering the overall growth rate.

Equipment Type 2009 2010 Change
Trailers 407,206 383,364 -5.9%
Domestic Containers 893,506 1,034,036 +15.7%
All Domestic Equipment 1,300,712 1,417,400 +9.0%
ISO Containers 1,485,753 1,601,910 +7.8%
Total 2,786,465 3,019,310 +8.4%

Strong port volumes supported a 7.8% gain in international containers during the quarter. Like domestic container growth, interna’tional growth accelerated throughout the quarter. While international containers grew by only 1.0% in January and 3.0% in Febru’ary, they strongly advanced 18.0% in March. Gains in inter’national container shipments were broad-based across all regions except the Southwest, which dropped 2.8% during the quarter.

The rise in domestic and interna’tional intermodal shipments translated into an 8.4% intermodal volume gain year-over-year. Although total intermodal vol’ume was flat in January compared to 2009, by March total intermodal volume was 16.7% higher than during last year. All regions recorded total intermodal volume growth greater than 6.0% during the quarter, except the Southwest region, which experienced only a 2.8% uptick. With the first quarter off to a strong start, and the emerging economic recovery, contin’ued strong service levels, growing domestic container fleets, and rising fuel prices, intermodal appears poised for a strong rebound in 2010.