Domestic cargo volumes are surging on industrial expansion and strong economic growth. But demand is outstripping the supply of available trucks, which move more than 70 percent of U.S. freight, making it more expensive and difficult to book over-the-road transportation.
Trucking companies are struggling to recruit and retain drivers. A new federal rule requiring truckers to electronically log their hours behind the wheel has also crimped capacity.
Rail is typically cheaper, but slower, than long-haul trucking. With spot-market trucking prices up as much as 30 percent year-over-year, shippers looking to shave costs off less time-sensitive shipments are increasingly turning to intermodal service, where carriers move goods long distances by rail and truck.
U.S. railroads posted a 6.5-percent increase in intermodal traffic in March, according a report from the Association of American Railroads, making the month “easily the best” March in history. The trade group said intermodal volume is tracking to top records set last year, with growth accelerating in April.
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