FTR Intermodal Competitive Index for July drops sharply

Sept. 21, 2016

FTR’s newly introduced Intermodal Competitive Index (ICI) fell more than three points from June to a reading of 0.6 for July, a large drop that brought the ICI close to negative territory.  Intermodal volume was unexpectedly weak across the board in July. 

Intermodal ISO container movements are trailing behind import trends. Domestic intermodal was also quite anemic. Lower diesel prices were another factor that contributed to the decline.

Larry Gross, partner at FTR and principal author of Intermodal Update, said: “Intermodal definitely is traversing a rough patch at the moment, with issues on both the international and domestic sides of the house. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that July’s numbers may have somewhat overstated the problem, since July 2016 had two fewer working days than July 2015--a 9% difference. We, therefore, expect to see a bit of a rebound to modestly positive territory for the balance of the year, but significant improvement will await 2017 when truck capacity starts to tighten up as the effective date of the electronic logging device mandate in December approaches.”

The Intermodal Competitive Index is a compilation of factors affecting the competitive posture of the domestic North American intermodal sector versus over-the-road truck. Any reading below zero indicates a less-than-ideal environment for intermodal, while readings above zero are meant to communicate relatively favorable conditions. The higher the reading, the more favorable the intermodal environment appears to be.

The ICI looks at a variety of factors including truck capacity, fuel prices, rail service, intermodal rates, and so forth. Details of the factors affecting the July Intermodal Competitive Index, along with a close look at market conditions and what might be expected going forward, can be found in the September issue of FTR’s Intermodal Update published September 6.