FTR’s Intermodal Competitive Index (ICI) rose slightly in November 2016 to a level of 5.0, indicating moderately favorable competitive conditions for intermodal versus truck. In the near term, the ICI may deteriorate a bit due to normal seasonal factors, but it is then anticipated to begin a steady rise through the balance of the year as the December implementation date for the truck Electronic Logging Device (ELD) federal mandate approaches and truck capacity tightens.

Larry Gross, partner at FTR and principal author of Intermodal Update, said: “While the new administration’s more restrained philosophy with regard to regulation may have some eventual downstream effects on the trucking environment, we believe that the ELD regulation, which has already been formalized into law, will not be recalled. It has already survived two court challenges in the Federal Appeals court and the only legal recourse for its opponents now lies with an injunction from the Supreme Court which we view as unlikely. 

“While the extent and precise timing of the capacity effects of the ELD mandate are open to debate, there seems to be little doubt that its capacity effects will result in some tightening of truck availability which should work to the benefit of intermodal.”

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.