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J.B. Hunt adds transload service in the West

Company’s latest move to add intermodal capacity, improve service

J.B. Hunt continues to address intermodal service headwinds (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

J.B. Hunt Transport Services announced Wednesday it plans to open its first transload facility on the West Coast. The new service is expected to improve inland intermodal service for its customers.

The company will use a 91,000-square-foot facility with 8 acres of parking, capable of holding 300 containers, to facilitate the service. The site will support drayage and transloading functions at the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.

Inbound ocean containers will be directly loaded onto J.B. Hunt marine chassis for delivery to the facility and then freight will be transloaded into company-owned trailing equipment bound for rail or road. In addition to its 53-foot intermodal container fleet, the company also will use assets from its drop-and-hook trailer program, J.B. Hunt360box, to help with the moves.

“By eliminating the inefficiencies created with handoffs between multiple providers, customers will benefit from J.B. Hunt’s holistic solution,” a press release said. The company expects to lower demurrage charges and per diem costs while improving turn times.

“The increase in import activity over recent years has created a bottleneck at the port, resulting in inefficient delays and rising costs,” Shelley Simpson, chief commercial officer, said in a press release. “We are providing customers with a complete solution that not only alleviates those challenges, it can accelerate their ability to meet domestic demand by offering a seamless port, transload and domestic outbound move.”

Multiple investments made to improve intermodal service

J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT) has launched several initiatives to tackle port and railroad congestion, which has weighed on container turns in its intermodal offering.   

The company launched its first transloading service in November. A Jersey City, New Jersey, facility is now providing its customers with port drayage, transloading and linehaul service to inland destinations in the New York metro area.

In March, it signed a joint initiative with West Coast rail partner BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) “to substantially improve capacity in the intermodal marketplace.” The agreement calls for J.B. Hunt to grow its intermodal container fleet by roughly 40% over the next three to five years, which will bring the total count to 150,000 units. The announcement built on its initial plan to add 12,000 containers, which was unveiled on the 2021 first-quarter call.

Last month, the company announced a multivessel service agreement with Swire Shipping Pte. to expedite the delivery of recently ordered intermodal containers and to help move freight for its customers. The ongoing service will move containers from the Chinese ports of Shenzhen, Qingdao and Shanghai to California and the Pacific Northwest.

All of the initiatives are expected to help navigate the nation’s supply chain bottlenecks and provide incremental capacity to customers, ultimately improving transit times. In 2019, a J.B. Hunt intermodal container moved 5.7 loads per quarter on average. That metric was down to 4.8 in the 2022 first quarter.

“A transloading model provides customers with a more efficient flow of international containers through the supply chain by eliminating imbalanced moves and turning boxes faster,” said Darren Field, J.B. Hunt’s head of intermodal. “Having optionality between domestic intermodal and interior-point intermodal (IPI) services will be important for our customers when uncertainties remain pervasive.”

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Todd Maiden

Based in Richmond, VA, Todd is the finance editor at FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves, he covered the TLs, LTLs, railroads and brokers for RBC Capital Markets and BB&T Capital Markets. Todd began his career in banking and finance before moving over to transportation equity research where he provided stock recommendations for publicly traded transportation companies.