After a tumultuous 2021, international intermodal shippers are focusing on how railroads can prevent bottlenecks from returning in Southern California, the Midwest, and the South Central US, while domestic intermodal shippers are focusing on when new container capacity will become available and how much contract rates will increase. As 2021 wound down, terminals in markets such as Chicago, Memphis, Kansas City, and Ohio were more fluid than earlier in the year, when international intermodal networks were paralyzed by a flood of import containers originating in Southern California and a shortage of chassis on which to mount them. As ocean containers piled up at inland railyards, domestic intermodal service also suffered because terminals typically store ocean and domestic containers together. Some relief is on the way, as numerous shippers and service providers are scheduled to receive new containers. Lawrence Gross, president and founder of Gross Transportation Consulting, believes that will help alleviate some of the pressure, while warning that a cooldown in freight demand would suddenly make a lot of new 53-foot capacity underutilized. A cooling of demand also could help improve flow through BNSF Railway and Union Pacific ramps on the West Coast, after both were forced to scale back, or “meter,” the number of routings through the heavily congested gateways last year, leading to a spike in transloading. This session will examine the major issues confronting the intermodal network in 2021, analyze the outlook for this year, and explore what shippers and service providers are doing to prevent a worst-case scenario from repeating.
Gross Transportation Consulting
President and Founder
Loadmatch and Drayage.com
Chief Operating Officer
Consolidated Chassis Management
S&P Global Market Intelligence
Senior Editor-Intermodal Rail and Southeast Ports, The Journal of Commerce