As intermodal freight hits the track toward growth, railroads are gaining momentum in profits and the local trucking industry looks to haul major profits.
Locally, trucking firm Intermodal Cartage Co. Inc. is seeing a boost.
“This city is a big hub,” says Joel Henry, president of Intermodal Cartage. “Our intermodal business via Memphis is around 85 percent.”
Henry monitors intermodal transport trends. He watches how many containers arrive at port cities and how much cargo is being shipped on railroads. Because of the growth in intermodal transport Henry has seen an increase in revenue and has been able to increase his driver count by 18 percent year-over-year, to about 200 drivers.
From Memphis, Intermodal Cartage services about 12 states.
In August, the amount of intermodal traffic hit a three-year high, according to the Intermodal Association of North America. About 1.22 million intermodal trailers and containers were moved domestically and internationally in August 2010, compared to 991,099 in August 2009, according to IANA.
The quick and easy pick-up from rail — and plane — to truck has made Memphis the mecca of intermodal traffic. And with five 1-class railroads, the world’s largest cargo hub at Memphis International Airport and two major interstates, high-volume loads from the East and West coasts and overseas are coming through Memphis to be hauled by local trucking firms.
At the University of Memphis, Martin Lipinski, director of the Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute, conducts a wide range of multi-disciplinary research on issues related to intermodal freight transportation.
“There’s a relationship now that I think is very positive between the railroad and trucking companies,” Lipinski says. “Traffic in Memphis has certainly picked up within the last couple of months. It seems to be that business is returning.”
Butch Brown is the Memphis terminal manager of Conley, Ga.-based trucking firm Morgan Southern Inc., which hauls freight from railroads directly to local stores or stores within 500-600 miles from the city.
“Our loads have increased allowing us to start hiring again,” he says. “We increased our trucking fleet 20 percent in the past seven months.”
Brown continues to watch predictions for domestic and international intermodal transport. All of his transport is intermodal.
While analysts predict a good end to 2010 for intermodal transportation, Henry is feeling another effect of the 2009 financial dip as he tries to rebuild his driver fleet.
“A lot of drivers didn’t have work, so they got out of the industry. I’m trying to hire both owner operators and company fleet,” he says. “Driving capacity is a huge issue we are all facing right now.”