Tight trucking capacity continues to boost intermodal volumes out of Southern California, where volumes have recovered to a much greater extent than in Chicago, New York/New Jersey, or Savannah, Georgia.

Most of the blank sailings on the eastbound trans-Pacific lane are behind us; container volumes at West Coast ports should grow through the summer and into the fall.

We’re continuing to see slight degradation in intermodal service metrics (average train velocity and dwell times) with volume growth, a warning sign for shippers who may count on intermodal in the event of a serious capacity constraint in over-the-road trucking later this year. Other than BNSF, the railroads seem to be running their intermodal networks as lean as possible and tightly matching capacity to expected volumes.

As with trucking, a major risk to Q3 and Q4 volumes is the effect that the second wave of coronavirus outbreaks will have on policymakers and consumers. While to some extent a shift from services to goods spending has boosted freight, a further round of business closures would be destructive of demand for transportation across modes.

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