Delivering 1 Day Faster: J.B. Hunt and BNSF Launch Quantum to Expand Intermodal Marketplace

Designed to offer 95% on-time delivery that's around a day faster than traditional intermodal service, Quantum aims to be a "breakthrough" supply chain solution. Its team will be based at a new Intermodal Innovation Center at BNSF's Fort Worth HQ.

A “breakthrough premier intermodal service” has been launched by Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway and Arkansas’ J.B. Hunt Transport Services, aiming to accommodate the service-sensitive highway freight needs of customer supply chains.

BNSF Railway is North America’s largest intermodal rail provider, and J.B. Hunt is one of the largest supply chain solutions providers in North America.

Called Quantum, the new intermodal service provides the consistency, agility, and speed needed to transport service-sensitive highway freight using rail, the companies said.

“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,” Darren Field, president of intermodal at J.B. Hunt, said in a statement. “Our joint service and capacity are unmatched. When combined with J.B. Hunt’s broad range of flexible solutions, there’s no provider in the industry who can match Quantum’s ability to move your most important freight.”

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

New Innovation Center located at BNSF’s Fort Worth HQ

The Quantum team is composed of both J.B. Hunt and BNSF operators, who will be based at a new Intermodal Innovation Center at BNSF headquarters in Fort Worth.

Their workflow is integrated at every step of the intermodal shipping process—from planning to execution and oversight to exception management.

The companies said that Quantum customers can anticipate up to 95% on-time delivery service approximately a day faster than traditional intermodal service.

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

Drayage is the transportation of shipping containers by truck to their final destination.

“We’re excited to bring this innovative vision to life by creating Quantum with J.B. Hunt,” Tom Williams, group VP of consumer products at BNSF, said in a statement. “Built on a long-standing strategic partnership foundation and decades of intermodal capacity expansion investments, Quantum will provide a faster and more consistent intermodal solution to customers. 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.”

The companies said that the Quantum team provides 24/7 oversight of every Quantum load and can quickly detect and resolve issues before final delivery can be impacted.

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 provides the exceptional intermodal service needed to consistently meet the demands of the most complex freight,” Spencer Frazier, EVP of marketing and sales at J.B. Hunt, said in a statement. “Its solutions are flexible to address supply chain challenges in real time. Customers have access to multiple modes for unexpected concerns such as potential delays, volume surges or production issues.”

Pricing will vary based on need, but customers can anticipate cost to range between that of traditional intermodal service and over-the-road service, the companies said.

A nod to the past and Quantum growth

The companies said the name of the service is a nod to J.B. Hunt and BNSF’s (then Santa Fe Railway) historic effort to bring rail and trucking together into a streamlined service.

In 1989, they launched the industry’s first modern intermodal transportation solution—also named Quantum—with 150 trailers. The growth was explosive, leading to more innovations: double stacking containers, creating company-owned chassis, and adding onsite terminals and express gates, the companies said.

Recent efforts by J.B. Hunt and BNSF to improve intermodal service efficiency helped lay the groundwork for Quantum.

In 2022, the companies launched a joint initiative to improve capacity in the intermodal marketplace while also meeting customers’ expanding needs.

J.B. Hunt and BNSF announced the new service during a keynote at the FreightWaves F3: Future of Freight Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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

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