Intermodal buoys trucking earnings

Trucking benefited from continued growth in intermodal business in the first quarter this year, despite the overall spotty freight environment brought about by lackluster economic growth.

Intermodal business proved to be an especially bright spot for Lowell, AR-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services, which helped the carrier balance out a poor showing in its truckload business. The carrier’s intermodal revenues climbed 9% to $354 million, while profits jumped 30% to $46.6 million. This more than made up for a truckload revenue decline of 11% to $214 million and a 47% slide in truckload profits to $11.4 million.

“Our intermodal segment revenue continued its steady expansion with … freight mix changes continuing to reduce overall length of haul; a trend which is expected to continue as customers partially redirect imports to eastern ports and we expand our focus on the shorter haul domestic market,” said Kirk Thompson, J.B. Hunt’s president & CEO.

Though intermodal business is still a small part of Omaha, NE-based Werner Enterprises’ business, it’s making money on it. “Intermodal produced 46% revenue growth and $300,000 of operating income improvement, as we started benefiting from intermodal strategy changes that we implemented during fourth quarter 2006 and first quarter 2007,” said Clarence Werner, the company’s chairman.

Mondovi, WI-based Marten Transport said its logistics revenue from our brokerage and intermodal operations increased 98.4% to $13.3 million in the first quarter this year, helping give its bottom line a boost.

Even third party logistics companies are seeing more intermodal activity. Universal Truckload Services said its intermodal revenue in the first quarter increased by 21.4% to $24.8 million from the same period in 2006, while the Hub Group reported a 10.4% in intermodal revenue to $287.8 million in the first quarter this year versus 2006

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