Monitor intermodal spot rates for faster decision making.

FreightWaves Customer SuccessDaily Tips

Did you know? You can see domestic intermodal spot rates throughout the U.S. and easily compare them to truckload rates?

What is it?

Intermodal 53’ Container Spot Rates (INTRM) – This displays the weekly average door-to-door intermodal spot rates for 53’ containerized movements. 

The intermodal rates are presented on a per-mile basis, and SONAR users can see the weekly average for all origin-destination pairs (INTRM.USA) or for specific lanes, such as Los Angeles to Chicago (INTRM.LAXCHI). 

Intermodal Rates

Intermodal Rates TreeMap feature (Y/Y % Change)

In the TreeMap above, SONAR users can view average intermodal spot rates for 53’ containers on major intermodal lanes compared to this time last year. 

Who needs it?

Analysts: The INTRM data series contained in SONAR gives you a unique way to gain insight into the pricing dynamic of the domestic intermodal market. While the large majority of intermodal volume travels in the contract market, intermodal spot rates are a near real-time indicator of intermodal supply and demand and can be thought of as a leading indicator for the rates on intermodal contracts that make up the majority of the market. In addition, comparing intermodal spot rates to trucking spot rates provides insight into the relative attractiveness of intermodal compared to truckload rates. They also indicate whether the railroads and the truckload-based intermodal providers will “take trucks off the road” and grow volume at a pace ahead of the overall freight market.   

Carriers: Truckload carriers should compare intermodal spot rates to truckload spot rates in lanes they participate in, and when intermodal rates are significantly less expensive than truckload, carriers should focus on different lanes or loads that are difficult to move via rail intermodal such as those that are time-sensitive or have special requirements. 

Brokers: Brokers’ gross margins are a function of the spread between rates paid by shippers and the brokers’ costs of purchased transportation. For longer-haul shipments of dry goods that are less time-sensitive, brokering intermodal loads may provide the lowest purchased transportation costs. But, that is not always the case because the relative competitiveness between truckload and rail intermodal is dynamic and needs to be monitored on a daily basis.    

Shippers: The INTRM data series is most relevant for shippers that are moving long-haul domestic freight in the spot market or are in the process of negotiating intermodal contracts. Shippers should generally look for a 10%-15% discount to truckload in exchange for the additional points of handling, and sometimes lower service and speed, associated with rail intermodal. Intermodal spot rates that are depressed, and/or near parity with truckload on relevant lanes, means that shippers should be in control when negotiating intermodal contracts.  

What can I do with it?

Using this data, you are able to see intermodal spot rates to move 53’ domestic containers, presented as a weekly average. 

In addition to viewing the domestic intermodal spot rate for the U.S. market as a whole (INTRM.USA), intermodal spot rates can be seen on individual lanes such as L.A. to Chicago (INTRM.LAXCHI), New York/New Jersey to Chicago (INTRM.LINCHI), and Chicago to Atlanta (INTRM.CHIATL). 

You can view this data as a change over the past week (INTRMW), fortnight (INTRMF), month (INTRMM), quarter (INTRMQ), or year (INTRMY). For example, to see the year-over-year change in the domestic intermodal spot rate between L.A. and Dallas, use the ticker INTRMY.LAXDAL. 

Show me how!

1) Click Intermodal Tree Map to view a chart of year-over-year changes on many of the largest intermodal lanes in the U.S.

Intermodal Tree Map

2) Once you have that tree map up on SONAR, click on the lane or lanes most relevant to you to bring up a more detailed chart on that lane. 

Intermodal Rates

Pro Tip: Use INTRM on the same chart as a SONAR data series for truckload spot rates per mile, such as DAT (DATVF) or Truckstop (TSTOPVRPM) to see a spread between truckload and domestic intermodal spot rates.