Johnelle Hunt: Continuity Key for Growth, Culture at J.B. Hunt

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Apr. 29, 2013 12:00 am  

J.B. Hunt and the entity that is now BNSF Railway were the first to fully embrace the idea that collaboration between one-time shipping industry competitors could be beneficial.

From a trucking standpoint, using intermodal helps stabilize costs by eliminating some dependency on fuel prices, reducing maintenance needed for trucks and eliminating some of the lengthy drives that lead to driver turnover.

Revenue for J.B. Hunt grew from just under $10 million to $297 million in the early 1990s, thanks largely to the new strategy that married trucking and other forms of transport, especially railroads.

“Our decision to investigate the possibilities around Intermodal transportation was truly a watershed event for the company,” Thompson wrote in the email, in which he referred to the company by its stock ticker symbol, JBHT.

“Many in the trucking and rail industries have had a contentious relationship through the years. One of the cultural elements … that is basic to the JBHT philosophy is to be open-minded and innovative. Sometimes that hasn’t always worked.

“But in the case of Intermodal, we identified the advantages for our customers and the possibilities for us, and then embraced the concept wholeheartedly, resulting in it becoming our largest and most profitable segment and giving JBHT the clear leadership position in the industry.”

Dedicated Contract Services, which specializes in customer-specific supply chain services, has emerged as the second-largest segment of the company, and Thompson describes it as “a big piece of our growth trajectory.”

DCS, which accounted for $279 million of the company’s $1.2 billion in first-quarter revenue, is another example of the company looking for ways to expand beyond the five-truck, seven-trailer operation it began as more than four decades ago.

Intermodal, though, continues to lead the way for the company.

It accounted for $796 million in first-quarter revenue, an increase of 15 percent over last year.

Intermodal has become a staple of success for the company, though it was once seen as an outside-the-box idea from the company’s founder.

And J.B. Hunt, his wife recalled, was never short on ideas about how to grow the business.

 

 

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