SONAR Indices & Insights: Monitor containerized freight volumes’ impact on inland freight networks with Loaded TEUs indices

Adam RobinsonFreight Market Blog

containerized freight

In this edition of “SONAR Indices & Insights,” the SONAR team explains another index found within SONAR, the freight forecasting platform from FreightWaves. This week, learn how freight market participants are predicting the impacts that containerized freight volumes may have on inland freight moves out of major U.S. port cities.  With these SONAR indices, users can see higher or lower activity of containers coming into ports (imports) and out of ports (exports). In this article, you learn what the Loaded TEUs indices are, what the Loaded TEUs indices monitor, and what the Loaded TEUs indices indicate to various freight market participants about the potential impact on freight costs and available trucking capacity for inland freight networks. 

What are the Loaded TEUs indices?

There are four available Loaded TEUs indices that monitor both import and export containerized freight volumes in addition to both total and differential indices. The Loaded TEUs indices are as follows:

  • Loaded TEUs – Imported: The Loaded TEUs, Imported index (IMPTEU) is the monthly total of containerized freight volumes imported into U.S. ports as officially reported by each respective U.S. port authority. This volume is measured in twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs), a measurement used in the maritime industry to record international containerized freight volumes. Even though these volumes are reported as if all containerized volumes were 20-foot containers, it is important to note that these reported volumes can also include a combination of 20-foot, 40-foot, 40-foot High Cube, and 45-foot containers. If the port records a 40-foot container passing through, then it is reported as if it were 2 x 20-foot containers or 2 TEUs.
  • Loaded TEUs – Exported: The Loaded TEUs, Exported Index (EXPTEU) is identical to the IMPTEU index, but instead measures the monthly total of containerized freight volumes exported from U.S. ports as officially reported by each respective U.S. port authority.
  • Loaded TEUs – Total: As the name of this index indicates, the Loaded TEUS, Total Index (VOLTEU), is the monthly total of containerized freight volumes being imported and exported through U.S. ports as officially reported by each respective U.S. port authority. As with the IMPTEU and EXPTEU, the VOLTEU includes TEUs, in addition to other combinations of types of containers, as listed in the IMPTEU index definition above.
  • Loaded TEUs – Spread: The last TEU index, the Loaded TEUs, Spread Index (SPDTEU) is the monthly difference between loaded containerized import and export volumes at U.S. ports as officially reported by each respective U.S. port authority.
containerized freight volumes

The SONAR chart above shows all of the containerized freight TEU volumes using all four of the Loaded TEUs indices monitoring volumes at the Port of Charleston, South Carolina.

Who is interested in and what do the Loaded TEUs indices tell freight market participants?

Freight market participants who have freight moves in and around major U.S. port markets would have a keen interest in the Loaded TEUs indices, especially the IMPTEUs. A surge in imports to that market may mean inland freight networks may have higher spot freight rates with trucking carriers or on intermodal moves, as well as an impact on available capacity, indicating that shippers, brokers, and carriers may have to adjust their plans in kind. 

The following freight market participants are using FreightWaves SONAR’s Loaded TEUs indices that monitor containerized freight volumes:

  • Freight forwarders 
  • NVOCCs, ocean carriers 
  • Port authorities
  • Terminals 
  • Rail/intermodal companies 
  • Financial institutions 
  • Brokers
  • Truckload carriers
  • Warehousing companies
  • And anyone else interested in containerized freight volumes coming into or out of U.S. ports.

Freight market participants will also have various indications depending on which of the containerized freight volumes indices they apply:

Loaded TEUs – Imported

Loaded import TEU containerized freight volumes at major US ports are very good indicators of freight volumes moving into port cities. Since a lot of freight originates overseas and then disseminates into transportation networks across the US, these loaded TEU volumes can help predict trends in freight volumes across the United States. For instance, if loaded TEU volumes are increasing month-over-month, then it is highly likely that truckload, LTL, and intermodal freight volumes will increase as well.

Loaded TEUs – Exported

Loaded export TEU volumes at major U.S. ports are very good indicators of freight volumes moving out of port cities. Loaded Export TEU volumes can a leading indicator of how U.S. exports are trending or performing in the global economy. For instance, if loaded TEU containerized freight volumes are increasing month-over-month, then it is highly likely that U.S. exporters are finding increased demand for U.S.-made goods abroad. Generally, when the U.S. dollar has a lower value relative to other world currencies, then exports will likely increase and this is a great indicator to keep track of that shift. Conversely, if the dollar is strong and has a higher value, exports will normally drop as these U.S. goods become more expensive.

Loaded TEUs – Total

Loaded TEU volumes at major U.S. ports are very good indicators of freight volumes moving into, and out of, port cities. Looking at total TEU volumes for both imports and exports can assist in identifying ports that are responsible for a large portion of U.S. freight movements in and out of the country. Since around 90% of global trade occurs via maritime shipping, loaded TEU volumes can also assist in understanding the overall health of U.S. trade in the global economy. If total loaded TEU volumes are increasing m/m, then one can assume that U.S. trade with other countries is also increasing. Conversely, If loaded TEU containerized freight volumes are declining m/m, then one can assume that U.S. trade with other countries is also in decline.

Loaded TEU – Spread

moving into, and out of, port cities. Looking at the spread (difference) between loaded import and export TEU volumes can assist in identifying the trade imbalance at a given U.S. port. If a port handles more loaded import TEU volumes than loaded export TEU volumes, then one can assume that the port serves as a major destination for U.S. imports, rather than a major origin port for U.S. exporters. The loaded TEU spread can also assist in understanding the overall health of U.S. trade in imports and exports in the global economy. If loaded TEU import volumes are increasing, and the loaded TEU spread is also increasing, then that means that loaded exports at that port are either decreasing or staying the same. Conversely, if loaded TEU import volumes are decreasing, and the loaded TEU spread is also decreasing, then one can assume that loaded export volumes are either increasing or staying the same.

Keep ahead of the containerized freight volumes by purchasing and using SONAR

In turbulent times, freight market participants need certainty to stay ahead of the freight market and understand the freight demand occurring in each participant’s most important lanes, markets and shipping modes. The premier freight forecasting engine, FreightWaves SONAR, allows participants to benchmark, analyze, monitor and forecast freight demand and costs in addition to the impact on the inland freight network or get a pulse of overall economic health seen in containerized freight volumes within the Loaded TEUs indices. 

SONAR ensures more proactive responses to the market, provides correlations between several indices to guide decisions and helps to manage freight budgets or margins more proactively. Click the button below to get a demo of SONAR to see what the platform can do for you.