Rail intermodal volume in the second quarter of 2007 fell 1.5% from last year’s record level of 3.58 million units to 3.53 million units as overall U.S. economic activity slowed.

The decline was the first quarterly volume drop since the first three months of 2002 and ended a string of 20 consecutive quarters when traffic volumes topped the same period of the prior year. International traffic, which has led the volume increases over the past five years, fell 1.9%, compared with 9.4% growth in last year’s second quarter and a 2.5% increase in this year’s first quarter. Domestic intermodal volume slipped 0.8%, according to the Intermodal Association of North America’s Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics report.

On the positive side, Intermodal Marketing Company (IMC) volume rose 2.2%, the first volume growth over the prior year period since 2003, suggesting a market share gain in the domestic freight market.

‘Given the weaker U.S. economy, the traffic decline isn’t unexpected, especially in comparison to the second quarter of 2006, which was the second-best quarter ever for intermodal,’ said Tom Malloy, IANA’s vice president of member services and business development. ‘It was encouraging to see the IMC business on the rise. IANA is confident that the growth trend will resume in the coming months and that the long-term outlook for intermodal remains favorable and positive.’

Second Quarter 2006/2007 Intermodal Volume Comparisons
2Q2006 2Q2007 Change
Trailers 610,237 523,818 -14.2%
Domestic Containers 814,659 889,305 9.2%
All Domestic Equipment 1,424,896 1,413,123 -0.8%
ISO Containers 2,158,404 2,116,751 -1.9%
Total 3,583,300 3,529,874 -1.5%

Volume in domestic containers rose 9.2% in the quarter, as railroads continued to de-emphasize the supply of trailers to the industry. International freight represented 60% of total intermodal volume in the quarter, compared with 53% five years ago.

Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics is published quarterly by IANA and is available on a subscription and on an individual copy basis.