News & Reviews News Wire J.B. Hunt says rail service is improving, sees opportunity for growth this year

J.B. Hunt says rail service is improving, sees opportunity for growth this year

By Bill Stephens | January 19, 2023

BNSF Railway’s service is back to pre-pandemic levels, intermodal partner says

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

A westbound BNSF Railway stack train carrying J.B. Hunt containers departs Winslow, Ariz., on Aug. 11, 2022 as an eastbound rolls toward the terminal. Bill Stephens

LOWELL, Ark. – J.B. Hunt executives say rail service is improving on BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, and Norfolk Southern, which should enable the trucking company to gain additional intermodal volume this year.

BNSF is now back to pre-pandemic service levels, Darren Field, president of J.B. Hunt’s intermodal division, said on the company’s quarterly earnings call this week.

“So far in January, our rail service is the best it’s been since the first quarter of 2020. And so that’s a really positive sign. We’re not quite to where we want to be fully, but there is massive improvement in the rail service today,” Field says.

There’s improvement in the east, too, where Norfolk Southern is J.B. Hunt’s primary partner. CSX Transportation also carries J.B. Hunt containers in certain intermodal lanes.

“Both Eastern railroads, Norfolk Southern and CSX, are also performing better than they have in 2022 and we’re confident in their plans and continue to see really significant opportunities in that part of our network to grow highway share conversion back to intermodal as this year goes on,” Field says.

Rail service slowed last year amid crew shortages and supply chain problems, including customers taking much longer than usual to unload containers due to high inventories and labor shortages at warehouses. A combination of slow box turns and unreliable service prompted customers to shift from intermodal to the highway, which helped reduce overall U.S. intermodal volume by 4.9% last year.

Nonetheless, J.B. Hunt’s intermodal volume grew 4.2% last year, to 2,068,278 loads, driven by faster growth in the east. For the fourth quarter, its intermodal volume was down 1%, with transcontinental business down 7% and eastern traffic up 8%.

Shippers are looking to reduce their transportation costs this year, which bodes well for intermodal growth despite a slowdown in freight demand, J.B. Hunt executives said.

“We believe our intermodal service product presents our customers with opportunities to save money by converting highway freight back to intermodal, which reduces their costs and is further supported by fuel cost and carbon emissions savings,” Field says.

6 thoughts on “J.B. Hunt says rail service is improving, sees opportunity for growth this year

  1. If I hear mention of high inventories again, I’m going to scream. FORGET inventories, they cost absolutely nothing other than the price of the merchandise, they aren’t taxed, and they can eventually be sold. There’s no longer such a thing as to much inventory.

    1. This may sound like dumb question then but if you have 300,000 SF of inventory but your building will only hold 200,000 SF of product could this be considered “too much” inventory???

    2. Inventory is expensive. There are the costs of storage, insurance, security, shrinkage, and obsolescence, plus the interest expense on the money tied up in inventory. Much of Japan’s manufacturing success was built around just-in-time inventory (which forced everybody to get things right the first time since there was little inventory to cover up mistakes).

  2. Union Pacific just needs to Leave well enough alone Sooner or Later they will have a bigger Bite than they can Chew

  3. But now Hunt has two very strong OTR competitors, Schneider and Knight Swift, both riding the rails with Union Pacific. Lance Fritz and Kenny Rocker, you have the commercial opportunity of your careers here. If you screw this one up, you are total and complete morons. Lance, keep your mouth shut and listen to your trucking partners. If you do you and your shareholders will make a lot of money. If not, it is the beginning of the end for Union Pacific. BTW, I was at Santa Fe in 1990 when we rolled out Quantum.

You must login to submit a comment