It was a good news/bad news (though mostly bad news for the market) second quarter for domestic intermodal according to the Q2 2023 Journal of Commerce (JOC) Intermodal Savings Index, released today. The good news: service improved significantly in the first half of the year. The bad news: the improved service appears directly related to weaker demand for intermodal transportation. In other words, with a glut of containers competing for an anti-glut of loads, North American intermodal volume was down again.
Specifically, the drop was 10.4% year to year, compared to an 8.6% decline in Q1. Domestic intermodal volume (goods hauled in 53-foot containers) was down 7.6% from Q2 2022, a less sharp decline than the 8.5% in the category for the first quarter. The service improvement showed up in the average intermodal train speed, clocking at 30.5 miles per hour, 2.2 mph faster than the same period last year (and the fastest Q2 speed since 2020), and Class I railroad on-time performance at 92.2% compared to 80% in May 2022.
JOC's Contract Intermodal Savings Index (ISI) stayed fairly level from the first quarter, with an average contract savings of 25.1% for intermodal shippers over truckload. Spot savings was down a bit, from 15.2% in Q1 to 12.8% savings on spot rates in Q2. While the Contract ISI was just a point below its long-term average, the Spot ISI was only a few points away from the 10% mark, which makes truckload rates competitive on the best intermodal lanes. For more detail on these and other pieces of the intermodal puzzle from May to July 2023, read the full report:
Each quarter, the Journal of Commerce (JOC) releases its proprietary Intermodal Savings Index, which combines real data from the intermodal and truckload marketplace with forecasts and more. We provide statistics used in this valuable look at the intermodal market as it relates to truckload options. Find some of our contributions in our weekly Intermodal Spot Rate Pricing Trendline Analysis.
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