Just over 53% of BNSF’s total volume is composed of intermodal containers — the Western railroad joins Norfolk Southern as the only other Class I with a freight portfolio more than half intermodal. BNSF continues to outpace Union Pacific’s intermodal volume growth.
It’s a different story for Kansas City Southern, which had the softest volume week (down 12.3% in intermodal y/y and down 35.8% in Mexico intermodal) of any Class I. A teachers’ protest has blockaded rail ramps at the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas, halting six trains that left daily and requiring the use of more than 900 drayage trucks to move the containers out of the terminal each day. Kansas City Southern has said that blockade has cost its customers hundreds of millions of dollars as industrial and automotive shippers have seen delayed deliveries.
Capacity remains constrained on the ocean, in West Coast intermodal markets, and on American highways generally. Major retailers, locked in an arms race for transportation capacity and supply chain fluidity, have chosen competing routes to bring their goods to market. While Amazon and Walmart both source the majority of their containerized imports from China, Amazon relies on Los Angeles and Long Beach to get its goods into the country, while Walmart’s imports are concentrated at Houston, Savannah, Georgia, and Norfolk, Virginia. The trade-off being made here is transit time versus cost. (For more, check out our discussion of the “Panama Spread” below.)
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