Railroads Setting Intermodal Records

November was a recording setting month for intermodal traffic at three Class 1 railroads, including CSX.

Industry analysts said that was due to high levels of consumer spending, a strong e-commerce market and retailers restocking depleted inventories.

CSX handled more than 60,000 containers and trailers in the past three weeks, which topped the 59,701 it handled during the same period of 2019.

 “When we look back, we did all the right things before in really optimizing the intermodal network . . . It’s paying huge dividends right now,” CSX Chief Financial Officer Kevin Boone said during a recent investor‘s conference.

Intermodal analysis Larry Gross said CSX appears to have gained some of that volume at the expensive of its chief competitor, Norfolk Southern.

However, NS is still the intermodal king of the East, carrying 47 percent more volume thus far this year than did CSX.

For the first four weeks of November 2020, intermodal traffic was up 18 percent at CSX and up 8.3 percent at NS.

Intermodal traffic rose 18 percent at BNSF, 21.2 percent at Canadian National, 10.3 percent at Canadian Pacific and 18.9 percent at Union Pacific during the same period.

Despite the rising volumes some factors are limiting the growth of intermodal traffic, including a lack of drayage capacity, slowdowns in warehouse productivity due to pandemic safety protocols and high demand, and congestion at West Coast ports.

In recent investor conference presentations, railroad executives have said they expect intermodal traffic to remain high through February.

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