The company spent some $6.7 million on the 53-foot containers in the fourth quarter, Robinson officials said in a recent conference call with investment analysts, in response to what they called a fundamental trend favoring intermodal transport.
C.H. Robinson will do "what we need to do to stay competitive and make sure we participate in that secular trend, because we do think it's real," said John Wiehoff, CEO and chairman.
Intermodal business makes up only about 3 percent of Minneapolis-based C.H. Robinson's overall net revenue. But it was the company's fastest growing transportation operation in the fourth quarter, and there is growing demand for the ability to move seamlessly between road and rail transport as capacity and cost pressures grow in the supply chain.
C.H. Robinson officials said the company had 350 intermodal containers before, and the new boxes will be deployed mostly in the Western U.S.. But Wiehoff suggested Robinson's view of future growth wouldn't be limited by geography.
"There are some long-haul West Coast to Chicago and some East Coast lanes where the rails have made very good investments and they're doing a very good job of taking some freight off the highway, and we are participating in that," he said.