“We always want to market and sell intermodal when that’s the best solution,” says Darren Field, J.B. Hunt executive vice president of the company’s intermodal operations, which provide more than half of Hunt’s revenue.
J.B. Hunt in recent years has moved from being primarily a truckload carrier to being a third-party logistics company which includes freight brokerage. In that role it faces conflict in selling transportation services.
“If we’re working with a customer, and intermodal is a good solution for the route or the origin-destination that the customer is asking about, but our truckload brokerage model says that that’s the best economic value for that customer, then we’re going to leave with that [truckload] service first and maybe intermodal is a secondary option to that customer,” says Field.
Railroads, he says, have to change their philosophy: “If they wanted to participate in helping us grow intermodal, that’s going to have to show up in the form of cost changes.”
Yet, Field believes railroads recognize the problem.
“We’ve never held back in terms of communicating with the railroads that their underlying costs certainly influence our ability to help grow volumes on the railroad,” he says.
“The truckload market is going to keep pressure on the railroads’ ability to raise prices with their intermodal service, particularly in the east,” according to Fields. “And we understand that we’ve got to work together to drive out costs so that we can both be more competitive against the truck.”
Field spoke at the recent Stephens Nashville Investment Conference.