J.B. Hunt and BNSF said their new Quantum intermodal service delivers consistency, agility and speed to move service-sensitive highway freight. - Image: J.B. Hunt/BNSF

J.B. Hunt and BNSF said their new Quantum intermodal service delivers consistency, agility and speed to move service-sensitive highway freight.

Image: J.B. Hunt/BNSF

J.B. Hunt Transport Services and BNSF Railway have teamed up to launch Quantum, an intermodal service designed to meet the service-sensitive highway freight needs of customer supply chains.

Quantum customers can anticipate up to 95% on-time delivery service approximately a day faster than traditional intermodal service, according to the announcement.

The Quantum team has both J.B. Hunt and BNSF operators housed together at a new Intermodal Innovation Center at BNSF headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. Their workflow is integrated at every step of the intermodal shipping process, from planning to execution and oversight to exception management.

Planning starts with aligning forecasts for dray, container and rail capacity with customer needs. Priority drayage and rail movement are incorporated to provide faster, more consistent transits. 

The Quantum team provides 24/7 oversight of every Quantum load and can quickly detect and resolve issues before they affect final delivery. Service and technology integration allow the Quantum team to identify variability and recommend an alternate solution among standard intermodal, expedited intermodal and over-the-road. 

“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, in a news release.

34 Years of Intermodal Collaboration 

It's the latest in a long collaboration between the two companies — and the Quantum name is a nod to that history.

In 1989, J.B. Hunt and BNSF (then Santa Fe Railway) launched what they said was the industry’s first modern intermodal transportation solution — also named Quantum — with 150 trailers. That led to more innovations, such as double stacking containers, creating company-owned chassis, and adding onsite terminals and express gates. 

In 2022, the two launched a joint initiative to improve capacity in the intermodal marketplace while also meeting the expanding needs of customers. This included plans from J.B. Hunt to grow intermodal capacity to as many as 150,000 containers in the next few years.

BNSF committed to creating additional capacity at existing intermodal facilities in the near term and also their intention to build a new state-of-the-art master planned rail facility in Southern California, the Barstow International Gateway, serving the Southern California ports. Together, their efforts helped address container velocity and service efficiency during a volatile market. 

In September, J.B. Hunt purchased the brokerage operations of BNSF Logistics, an affiliate of BNSF Railway Company.

More About Quantum

“Quantum will provide a faster and more consistent intermodal solution to customers,” said Tom Williams, group vice president of consumer products at BNSF. “Our new Intermodal Innovation Center will foster continued collaboration between our companies to continue evolving with our customers’ supply chain needs and create the intermodal solution of the future.”

Solutions are customized specifically to each customer’s needs, taking into account service expectations, transit requirements and operational procedures.

Quantum is a premium intermodal service, and pricing will vary based on need. Customers can anticipate cost to range between that of traditional intermodal service and over-the-road service, according to the announcement.

Based on analysis of J.B. Hunt 360° transactions and annual bid activity, J.B. Hunt estimates that as many as 7 million to 11 million loads of freight support conversion from over-the-road truck service to intermodal service, reducing a shipment’s carbon footprint by an average of 60 percent compared to over-the-road truck transportation.

A Changing Intermodal Marketplace

BNSF and J.B. Hunt aren’t the only companies pursuing intermodal options more competitive with over-the-road trucking.

As HDT reported earlier this year, Schneider National announced it will offer “truck-competitive” intermodal service on the newly merged Canadian Pacific Kansas City railroad, furthering its plans to double its intermodal size by 2030.

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