[WHITE PAPER] SONAR highlight reel: Intermodal congestion worsens

Tony MulveyFreight Market Blog, White Papers

This “SONAR highlight reel,” which we plan to publish every other week, is intended to concisely hit data highlights and trends in truckload, intermodal and maritime. 

Truckload demand remains elevated with accepted tender volume hitting a new high, even surpassing holiday 2020 levels. Meanwhile, tender rejection rates have fallen to their lowest level in five months, which reflects recent increases in contracted rates. Those rates are now at their highest level in recent years. Elevated import volume, inventory replenishment and continued capacity constraints are likely to keep the truckload market tight, but with carriers rushing to add capacity, conditions are unlikely to get worse for shippers. 

This past week was one where we heard numerous complaints from intermodal shippers regarding service. More than just anecdotes, we believe that the service issues can be seen in the domestic intermodal volume data which is now down year-over-year (y/y) in 10 of the 11 densest domestic intermodal lanes and may be losing share to the highway

Meanwhile, import volume remains well above year-ago levels and ocean capacity constraints have put tremendous pressure on ocean rates, particularly from China to North America, although those rates are finally off their highs. While the past year has felt like a non-stop peak season for imports, pent-up demand from China’s Guangdong Province and our forecasts for strengthening import volume at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach promise to keep import volume elevated.


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