Source: Intermodal Association of North America & American Association of Railroads.
American Intermodal Rail Traffic, 1988-2011
Recent rail transport trends in the United States underline a significant
shift of intermodal traffic to the advantage of containerized freight.
While rail intermodal container traffic (COFC), both ISO and domestic,
increased, the number of trailers carried
by rail (TOFC) has actually declined. This represents a significant change in the balance of 55% TOFC
/ 45% COFC in 1990 to 15% trailer / 85% container in 2010. TOFC has
thus become a marginal segment of intermodal transportation used for
niche services, most of them point to point.
58% of the
containers handled in 2005 were international (maritime) containers,
while domestic containers accounted for 23% and trailers 19%. About
25% of all international cargo moved by rail is transloaded into domestic
containers. COFC traffic appears to have peaked in 2007 and declined
in 2008 and 2009 due to declining import demands.
One of the core advantage of COFC versus TOFC concerns double
stacking, involving a much higher utilization density. Several
large American trucking companies are converting to
containerization, thus relying on COFC as opposed to TOFC. For
instance, in 2009,
citing energy and cost advantages, major LTL shipper Schneider National
converted its entire intermodal fleet to containers. JB Hunt, with
the largest fleet of domestic 53-foot containers, is also converting.