Intermodal rates go off the rails

The average national spot rate for intermodal shipments by rail have increased 58% since early June, or $0.79/mile. The normally rational intermodal market, a safe haven for many shippers, has succumbed to the pressure of the surging freight volumes arriving on the West Coast. What is more impressive than the absolute rate, which is the highest in five years, is the rate of increase.

It has taken only three months for the U.S. average intermodal spot rate to increase beyond the 2018 peak level, which was the previous multiyear high. It took rates over a year to increase the same amount in 2017-18, or about four times as long.

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