Things are going well for the state’s publicly traded transportation companies, and not just because the Interstate 40 bridge spanning the Mississippi River between Memphis and West Memphis finally reopened.
The second quarter of fiscal 2021 was good for companies such as J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell. J.B. Hunt reported income of $172.2 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2021, a 41% increase from the previous year.
Two other state companies, ArcBest Corp. of Fort Smith and USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren, both reported record revenue. ArcBest said it generated $949 million in revenue in the quarter, while USA Truck reported $170 million.
USA Truck earned nearly $4.2 million in the quarter, a turnaround from the $931,000 it lost in the same quarter a year ago. PAM Transport Inc. of Tontitown also reported a turnaround: It made $15.3 million in the second quarter, up from a loss of $823,000 a year ago.
“It was only one year ago that we were scrambling to find replacement freight as many of our largest customers reacted to the pandemic by completely suspending their operations,” PAM CEO Joe Vitiritto said. “Now, just one year later and with a redesigned network, we are pleased to report record revenue and record operating income for the quarter.”
J.B. Hunt reported a strong quarter across all segments: Intermodal, Dedicated Contract Services, Integrated Capacity Solutions, Final Mile Service and Truckload. CFO John Kuhlow said even during the good times labor shortages are taking their toll.
In an April 15 conference call, CEO John Roberts called empty drivers seats “a meaningful part of our mid-term and potentially long-term future.” Kuhlow said during the second-quarter call that J.B. Hunt had spent $10 million less in the quarter on COVID-19-related expenses, mostly from the reduction in paid time off for employees. The company had a policy last year to pay up to 80 hours of leave for employees who were either infected with COVID or in quarantine.
After vaccines became available, the company paid employees eight hours so they could get vaccinated.
“[T]his reduction was meaningfully offset by increases across all pay items for both drivers and non-driver employees,” Kuhlow said in a July conference call. “The impact of the reopening on salaries and wages is widespread, and we see challenges in this area continuing because of the importance of attracting and retaining our people.”
J.B. Hunt also made news recently with the release of its 2020 Sustainability Report (PDF), the first time the company has undertaken such a project. In November, J.B. Hunt named Craig Harper as chief sustainability officer; he had been COO before taking over the newly created role.
Roberts called the company’s sustainability report the “next step on our sustainability journey.” The report highlighted a J.B. Hunt projection that it had reduced emissions by 3.5 million metric tons by switching freight from truck transport to intermodal, and had saved drivers from driving 4.3 million empty miles with better logistics through its 360 platform.
Nick Hobbs, who replaced Harper as COO, said during the July conference call that he was reviewing the company’s vendors and suppliers to ensure they were “aligned across our operational and sustainability goals.”
Part of the Sustainability Report dealt with social issues, and the company said it had created an employee resource group called PLUS (+) for LGBTQ workers. The company also has employee resource groups for women, Latinos, African Americans and military veterans.
J.B. Hunt promoted Jermaine Oldham to be the company’s vice president of inclusion, and Chief Commercial Officer Shelley Simpson oversees the company’s inclusion efforts.
“Inclusion is a key part of everything we do in our organization,” Simpson said in the report. Simpson is also the J.B. Hunt’s executive vice president of people and human resources.