Volume showed some gains in the third quarter for domestic intermodal according to the Q3 2023 Journal of Commerce (JOC) Intermodal Savings Index, released today. The gains are modest, though, and limited to domestic intermodal, with container volume in that category up 1.6% from last year and 3.9% from Q2. To take the positive view further, that quarter to quarter gain was the biggest (percentage-wise) since 2009, signaling what authors refer to as a "mini peak" for the first time in a couple of years.
While those volume gains suggest some movement away from the bottom of the market, there are still plenty of signs of slowness. North American intermodal volume across all container and trailer sizes was down 9.2% year to year, with railroads moving fewer than 5 million containers and trailers in Q3 for the first time since 2016. The culprit appears to be a lack of international intermodal volume as evidenced by the bump in domestic noted above.
Railroad service levels maintained their high levels from Q2, with the average intermodal train speed reading 30.4 miles per hour, up 1.9 mph from Q3 2022 and about even with the previous three months.
JOC's Contract Intermodal Savings Index (ISI) gained ground from the second quarter. The average contract savings was up .6% to 25.7% for intermodal shippers over truckload. Spot savings was even better, from 12.8% in Q2 to 16.7% in the third quarter - which also outpaced the first quarter's mark of 15.2% and Q3 2022's 12%. Like Q2, the Contract ISI remains a point below its long-term average. Unlike Q2, the Spot ISI moved further away from the 10% mark - what's considered "danger territory" when truckload rates are competitive on the best intermodal lanes. For more information and commentary on the intermodal market from August to October 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.
Need assistance with intermodal shipping - or just about any other shipping or logistics need? Let us know, and we'll discuss how you can put us to work for your company. We also have a variety of useful information about intermodal, plus freight and logistics in general (as well as what we do at InTek) in our Freight Guides. Additionally, subscribe to our blog for information and updates on the freight industry. Or you can start with a few of the links below: