According to the Intermodal Monthly Update Report published by FTR Associates, international intermodal shipments have declined sharply while domestic shipments continue to increase.

Year-to-date, international intermodal volumes are down 3.9%, while domestic volumes have increased 3.7%, FTR said. Compared to a year ago, international volume is down 0.1%, with domestic volume up 9.6%.

Eric Starks, president of FTR Associates, told FleetOwner that current conditions have led to changes in who is hauling what. “Imports are down substantially, and even though exports are up, it’s not enough to offset the weakness [in international intermodal],” he said.

According to FTR, the domestic market has been buoyed by still-increasing fuel prices and a decline in trucking capacity. “We really started to see domestic pick up in the fourth quarter,” Starks said. “Since then, it’s been noticeably better.

“Domestic will stay strong because of fuel prices, until maybe after the third quarter,” he continued. “If fuel prices start to fall, it will slow down, but right now they are still volatile.”

As for the international intermodal market, FTR’s report said that performance has been affected by the weak U.S. economy, the weak dollar and a diversion of freight from intermodal to all-water routing.

“In the middle of 2007, we started seeing that imports were falling off quickly due to the consumer retail market getting pounded,” Starks said. “We thought things would turn around in the second quarter, but they haven’t yet.

“We think the international market will start to pick up early in 2009, although it’s possible it may pick up early if we have a strong holiday season,” he added.

The Intermodal Monthly Update features a three-year forecast for North American intermodal revenue loading by equipment type, segmented into international and domestic, FTR said.

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