J.B. Hunt, BNSF expand intermodal partnership with new service

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 465 views 

Premium intermodal services are expanding in Arkansas as Lowell-based carrier J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. builds on its partnership with Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF Railway Co.

Intermodal comprises the use of rail and truck to complete freight shipments. Carriers have touted intermodal as a service that can reduce carbon emissions and costs when shipments are converted from over-the-road truckload to intermodal. J.B. Hunt executives recently said intermodal can help shippers reduce carbon emissions per shipment by 60%.

According to a Tuesday (Nov. 7) news release, J.B. Hunt and BNSF launched Quantum, a premium intermodal service expected to improve delivery times. Quantum customers can expect up to 95% on-time deliveries one day faster than traditional intermodal service. The Quantum team comprises J.B. Hunt and BNSF employees housed together at BNSF’s headquarters.

“Quantum allows customers with service-sensitive freight to benefit from the cost savings of intermodal, while reducing their carbon footprint and maintaining the level of service and consistency needed in their supply chains,” said Darren Field, president of intermodal at J.B. Hunt.

The premium service is expected to cost between that of traditional intermodal and over-the-road service. J.B. Hunt estimates that up to 11 million loads of freight can be converted from over-the-road trucks to intermodal.

In October, Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Railroad launched an intermodal service connecting industrial markets in Mexico with the Southeast. Union Pacific will handle the domestic leg of the premium service from Eagle Pass, Texas, to Marion in eastern Arkansas where Union Pacific has an intermodal facility. Mexico carrier Grupo Mexico Transportes will handle the delivery from Mexico to Eagle Pass. Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX will take the shipment in the Southeast. Transit times from Mexico to Marion are five to seven days, depending on the origin in Mexico.

In September, Union Pacific announced it had removed one day of transit time for customers shipping on its premium intermodal routes connecting the United States, Mexico and Canada. In April, Union Pacific established a premium intermodal route from Mexico to Chicago that connected to Canada. The route was jointly established with Canadian National and Grupo Mexico rail carriers.

“I’m optimistic about the strong performance and the growth potential as a result of our operational excellence and opportunities created by the nearshoring trend in Mexico,” said Union Pacific CEO Jim Vena at a recent conference.

In 1989, J.B. Hunt and BNSF, formerly Santa Fe Railway, established the industry’s first intermodal service, also named Quantum, with 150 trailers. The service has expanded to include double-stacking containers, company-owned chassis and terminals and express gates.

Last year, J.B. Hunt and BNSF announced plans to improve intermodal service. Then, J.B. Hunt also announced expanding its intermodal fleet to as many as 150,000 containers in three to five years. As of Sept. 30, J.B. Hunt had 117,387 intermodal trailers and containers. Also this day, J.B. Hunt acquired the brokerage operations of BNSF Logistics, an affiliate of BNSF Railway.

J.B. Hunt’s intermodal segment comprised 49%, or $1.55 billion, of the company’s revenue in the third quarter. The segment also accounted for 53%, or $127.97 million, of its operating income in the period.

Shares of J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT) were trading Tuesday afternoon at $175.12, up 29 cents or 0.16%. In the past 52 weeks, the stock has ranged between $163.66 and $209.21.