[WHITE PAPER] SONAR highlight reel: Intermodal spot rates surge in past week

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. 

Freight volumes continue the robust growth though relative capacity has started to tighten again, following a seasonal pattern. The rise of volumes in the shorter lengths of haul have led to spot rates setting new all-time highs in both the dry van and reefer market, although rejections hit the lowest level in more than a year. 

As intermodal service continues to be an issue for shippers and impairs intermodal volume (intermodal volume is failing to keep pace with domestic truckload and import volumes), the railroads increased intermodal spot rates dramatically in the past week. That has put intermodal further out of reach for spot shippers in the lanes outbound from L.A. and has placed intermodal and truckload spot rates at close to parity from Chicago to Elizabeth, NJ.  

Maritime data suggests that further shipment delays, elevated ocean rates and a strained domestic transportation network should be expected. The National Retail Federation expects August to set a new record for U.S. imports, eclipsing the record set in May. Nearly 30 containerships are at anchor in the San Pedro Bay, which suggests additional delays in getting consumer goods to market. Further complicating matters for shippers, a COVID outbreak at one terminal at the Port of Ningbo, the world’s third-largest container port, has reduced its capacity to 80%.

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