Total intermodal traffic on U.S. Class I railroads was up 11.5% year-over-year last week, beating the prior four-week moving average of 10.8%. The Western rails led the way: BNSF intermodal volumes were up 13.1% year-over-year, and Union Pacific’s intermodal volumes were up 12.1% year-over-year.
Import shipments into Los Angeles and Long Beach — bills of lading (BoLs) processed by Customs officials — have recovered from a lull in the middle of the month and are back near year-to-date highs. The announcement Wednesday morning that CMA CGM would launch Seapriority Express, a Ningbo-Yantian-Los Angeles priority service beginning the first week of December, signals that the container ship lines are still building new products for time-sensitive goods, even this late in the year. The move by the French container carrier implies an expectation that the pre-Chinese New Year volume rush will be robust.
Meanwhile, the national average intermodal spot rate made a strong move up 5.2% to $2.61/mile as rejection rates on the West Coast broke 10% and fell in Chicago, Joliet, Illinois, and Savannah, Georgia. Memphis, Tennessee, rejection rates jumped from near zero to 4%.
While in a “normal” year we would expect a soft December for U.S. port and intermodal volumes, so far this year activity has held up, driven by distorted consumer spending patterns, retail restocking and congestion up and down the supply chain that has stymied shippers’ efforts to move freight quickly.
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