Intermodal losing position to truck transport: Analyst

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Intermodal transport lost market share against trucks in the fourth quarter of 2008, a recent analysis by FTR Associates shows.

Intermodal’s share of U.S. long-haul (550+ mile) movements of international and domestic containerized freight dropped by 0.2 percent to a level of 12.1 percent from the third to the fourth quarter.

Excluding international intermodal moves, the market share represented by intermodal movement of domestic cargo dropped by 0.1 percent to a level of 5.6 percent, reversing a trend that had seen domestic intermodal share increasing for the past year.

The analysis is contained in the February issue of FTR’s Intermodal Monthly Update. FTR is a research and forecast firm specializing in the freight transportation industry.

"Intermodal is facing some terrific headwinds at the moment," said Lawrence Gross, senior consultant for FTR and principal author of the Intermodal Monthly Update. "The combined effects of plunging fuel prices and excess capacity in the motor carrier industry proved too great for domestic intermodal to overcome in the fourth quarter. Compounding the problem is the profound weakness in international trade, a market dominated by long-haul intermodal."

While the near-term intermodal outlook appears difficult, Gross expects that to change.

"As truckers continue to shrink their fleets in response to the current weak freight environment, when the economy eventually does begin to recover there will be a significant shortage of truck capacity and intermodal will then be well positioned to benefit."

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