J.B. Hunt will grow its intermodal fleet by 40% in the next three to five years, and BNSF plans to increase capability at multiple intermodal facilities.  -  Photo: J.B. Hunt

J.B. Hunt will grow its intermodal fleet by 40% in the next three to five years, and BNSF plans to increase capability at multiple intermodal facilities.

Photo: J.B. Hunt

J.B. Hunt Transport Services and BNSF Railway are launching a joint effort to improve capacity in the intermodal marketplace while also meeting the expanding needs of current customers.

Demand for intermodal services has grown significantly in recent years as companies look to secure capacity, J.B. Hunt officials said in a press release. Based on current and projected trends, J.B. Hunt plans to grow its intermodal fleet to as many as 150,000 containers in the next three to five years, a 40+% increase from its count at the end of 2021. The company has completed more than four million intermodal loads since 2020.

As part of the initiative, BNSF is providing several property locations around key intermodal hubs in Southern California, Chicago, and other key markets to increase efficiency at terminals. Additionally, BNSF will bolster its railcar equipment to accommodate the anticipated increase in container capacity, which will support efficient throughput and strong service performance.

“Over the past few years, intermodal has been disrupted by increased demand and tight capacity, resulting in poor container velocity and long dwell times,” said John Roberts, president and CEO of J.B. Hunt. “Together, J.B. Hunt and BNSF will enhance their work to bring back the consistency and reliability customers expect with intermodal services and further embrace intermodal conversion and transloading services.”

In addition to growing its container count, J.B. Hunt will add supporting chassis based on market need. Over the years, both companies have invested billions of dollars to ensure intermodal’s ability to grow with customers and meet the increasing demand for intermodal services.

The companies will leverage technology, including the industry leading J.B. Hunt 360°, to improve efficiencies in rail transport. J.B. Hunt 360’s digital freight matching platform supports intermodal services. Based on analysis of J.B. Hunt 360 transactions and annual bid activity, the company estimates that an additional 7 to 11 million shipments could be converted to intermodal, supporting long-term growth opportunities while avoiding carbon emissions. 

J.B. Hunt and BNSF disrupted the transportation industry in 1989 by developing a double-stack shipping solution that would complement both rail and trucking services, a first for modern transportation. Today, J.B. Hunt operates the largest company-owned intermodal fleet in North America with more than 109,000 53’ containers supported by company-owned chassis and tractors. 

BNSF operates the largest intermodal rail network handling roughly 1 million more intermodal units each year than any other railroad and through their investments offer the fastest intermodal route between Southern California and the Midwest.

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