Devine Intermodal rolls dice, adds 3PL services

Bennie Gamble and other executives of Devine Intermodal successfully made one big bet shortly after launching the company’s northern Nevada operations.

Nearly a decade later, they’re making another.

The company, which made its mark hauling containers between northern Nevada and the Port of Oakland, is steadily moving upstream into third-party logistics services.

Working from a 30,000-square-foot distribution center along Vista Boulevard in Sparks, Devine Intermodal is increasing the higher-value services — final assembly, for instance — that it provides along with traditional warehousing.

Not that Devine is willing to chase just any business to strengthen its position in third-party logistics.

“We don’t want to go into any business where we won’t make money out of the gate,” says Gamble, who’s been working in the warehousing and transportation industry in Reno and Sparks since his college days.

The warehousing business that’s providing a launching pad for higher-value supply-chain services was an outgrowth of Devine’s short-haul freight business — “drayage” in the trade.

“We bring a lot of freight into northern Nevada, and a lot of it is seasonal,” he says.

Clients who are stocking up on seasonal items — a manufacturer who is building gear during the summer to meet a winter-time rush, for instance — don’t want to find short-term storage space themselves. Devine Intermodal used its existing relationships as a freight-hauler to expand into warehousing services, making a bigger commitment to the business with its move to a larger facility at 250 Vista Blvd. in mid-2012.

The step-by-step move of Devine Intermodal into third-party logistics isn’t the first time that executives of the company headquartered at West Sacramento have undertaken a new direction with their northern Nevada operation.

The company initially carved a position for itself as a hauler of freight containers to and from the Union Pacific yards at Sparks.

As most of that business migrated to the railroad’s big intermodal yard at Lathrop, near Stockton, Devine Intermodal increasingly shifted its focus to drayage between the Port of Oakland and the Reno-Sparks market. The change of focus allowed Devine to catch the upsurge in ocean-bound freight driven by China’s fast emergence as an industrial powerhouse.

Changing markets also provide a boost to the company’s increased focus on third-party logistics.

Industrial real estate was available at attractive prices when the company expanded to new facilities last year, Gamble says, and skilled distribution workers have been easier to recruit than they were during the regional economy’s go-go era.

At the same time that it’s expanding its distribution services, he says Devine expects to see continued growth in its drayage business in northern Nevada.

Fifteen trucks headquartered at Sparks are part of a fleet of 30 Devine hill-runners that routinely make the trip across Donner Summit in all sorts of weather. Devine also operates terminals at Fresno, Oakland, Sacramento and Lathrop.

Gamble says the company expects that large haulers such as Devine Intermodal will continue to grow as stringent air-quality rules in California force smaller operators out of the business.

“We don’t see those owner-operators buying new trucks,” he says.


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