Intermodal volumes weakened significantly, capacity stayed loose and rates were stable over the past week.
Strikingly, we saw some slight deterioration in network fluidity, as measured by intermodal train velocities, which ticked down across the Class I railroads. We expect service degradation to coincide with volume growth, as longer, more complex and heavily-laden trains require more time to be built and reach their destinations. Slower trains on lower volumes may be a symptom of how much capacity the rails have removed from the tracks – we hope it’s a temporary blip.
The Port of Oakland may already be seeing a recovery in customs shipments (this really depends on whether the uptrend continues). As typical transit times from Shanghai to Oakland are about a week shorter than the trip from Shanghai to Los Angeles, the tick up in Oakland volumes may bode well for a general volume recovery on the West Coast.
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John Paul conducts research on multimodal freight markets and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. Prior to building a research team at FreightWaves, JP spent two years on the editorial side covering trucking markets, freight brokerage, and M&A.