Shippers’ choice of modes to save transportation dollars is a ‘moving’ target.
How freight moves continues to move. Intermodal rail/truck hybrid shipping continues to climb in popularity, while transloading increasingly sees goods transferred out of the ocean containers that bring them into U.S. ports for their journey inland.
U.S. Intermodal volume for the week ending Sept. 7 climbed 6.7 percent year-over-year, the tenth straight increase, and the steepest rise since the week of March 2, according to data supplied by the Association of American Railroads. “Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, led by motor vehicles and parts with 14,951 carloads, up 21.9 percent,” said AAR. Canadian intermodal volume for the same week was up 6.5 percent, its sixth consecutive increase.
Transloading freight into domestic containers is increasing in popularity for transporting goods imported through ports including LA-Long Beach, which handles 40 percent of U.S. containerized imports. Since 2006, when 3.4 million containers imported into LA-Long Beach moved into the U.S. interior by rail – the high water mark – the number of ocean containers moving inland by rail has declined steadily, to only 2.6 million containers in 2012, down 23 percent. Over the same period, reported the Journal of Commerce, goods imported into LA-Long Beach but then transloaded into domestic containers and sent east by rail increased by 25 percent.
Importers are joining other shippers in opting to include rail in their shipping mix, underscoring the larger trend of looking for slower but more cost-effective options, such as moving goods by ocean rather than air freight. Does that widget really have to “absolutely, positively” be there tomorrow? At whose expense?