The US housing market has been bouncing along the bottom for the last 5-6 years. Signs that the market could now be improving could have a number of positive, and indeed negative, implications for the US transportation sector.
Clearly, if the market does start to improve, a rise in real estate construction could lead to an increase in the import of goods used to supply that market. Fixtures and fittings, whether for the new market or for people looking to upgrade and improve existing homes, all stand to benefit.
A secondary benefit could be the resurgence of the US domestic market. Starting in the early 1990s, shipping lines discovered that they could save significant dollars on empty repositioning by supplying US domestic logistics companies, or Intermodal Marketing Companies (IMCs), with their excess equipment. The IMC would pick up the 20ft, 40ft, or Hicube container in a surplus location like Chicago, load it with one-way cargo for the US West Coast, and return it to the ocean carrier in Los Angeles or the Pacific North West. Then the ocean carrier only had to load it empty on a vessel back to Asia. The situation was a win-win. The savings to the ocean carrier were valuable, anywhere between $300 and $500 per container. And while the IMC and their shipper had to use a smaller container than the usual 48′ or 53′ box, the credit paid by the carriers was more than enough to make it worth their while.