2012 proved to be a mixed year for trucking revenue in Arkansas, though three standout performers — two good, one not so much — blew by their peers on the list of the largest trucking companies doing business in the state.
Maverick USA of North Little Rock reported a nearly 20 percent increase in revenue last year. And J.B. Hunt Transport Services of Lowell saw revenue rise more than 12 percent.
On the very disappointing end of the sales spectrum stood USA Truck of Van Buren, which reported a revenue drop of almost 43 percent in 2012 compared with 2011.
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Largest Private Fleets: Click here to PDF and spreadsheet versions of the list of the largest private trucking fleet.
J.B. Hunt’s showing was strong enough to propel it past longtime second-place fixture YRC Worldwide, headquartered in Overland Park, Kan. J.B. Hunt reported just over $5 billion in 2012 revenue compared with $4.5 billion in 2011, putting it within striking distance of FedEx Freight’s $5.3 billion first place.
Asked what J.B. Hunt was doing right, Jim Crowell, director of the Supply Chain Management Research Center at the University of Arkansas, provided a series of bullet points for transportation company winners:
- J.B. Hunt is adaptable.
- It knows how to manage the margins.
- It works well with others, such as railroads when implementing the multimodal segment of the business.
- It has a strong leadership team.
- It’s forward thinking.
(Read this week's cover story, J.B. Hunt’s Origins Offer Lessons for Today.)
“J.B. Hunt started out as a trucking company,” Crowell said. “If you talk to them today, they will tell you that they are a supply chain service company. The reason for that is their ability to branch out. And they’re doing a very good job managing margins.
“It’s no secret that they are probably one of the premier folks involved in the railroads on the multimodal side, so that has definitely been a very strong suit for them. They have a very strong dedicated fleet group. They also, like a lot of the major carriers, have created a brokerage group,” he said.
“What you’re seeing is a lot of the larger, quote, traditional trucking companies — they’re evolving in a similar fashion, probably more so in response to the success of J.B. Hunt. That would be my opinion. That and two bucks will buy you coffee.”
The self-effacing Crowell, however, hit on the takeaway: Other companies seeking success in what has continued to be a challenging economic environment are modeling themselves after the transport firm headquartered in Lowell, Arkansas.
Recently, J.B. Hunt has branched out into residential delivery, or “Final Mile Services.” Through the company’s Dedicated Contract Services segment, its specialized trucks are providing in-home delivery of goods like appliances, furniture and electronics. Final Mile also includes B-to-B delivery.
J.B. Hunt cites the expansion of e-commerce in explaining the move, its website noting, “In this age of e-commerce, your business shouldn’t be limited by your ability to efficiently deliver goods. For your residential needs, let Final Mile Services do the heavy lifting. From appliances, furniture and electronics, to building supplies for the construction site, Final Mile Services delivers with the right combination of people, equipment and expertise.”
“They’re now, instead of just being a trucking company that is business only, that brand is now becoming familiar to the consumer,” Crowell said. “It’s very high end. Think about it: If you’re going to have one or two people setting up appliances at someone’s home, you’ve got to have some good folks to represent you.”
On the not-so-sunny minus side of the performance picture stands USA Truck, which in February replaced CEO Cliff Beckham with John Simone. Beckham returned to his previous post as executive vice president and CFO.
In a February interview with Arkansas Business, Simone said the next 100 days were critical to establishing the company’s long-term vision. He said he was evaluating USA Truck’s strategy as short-haul carrier and its organizational structure and looking at ways to improve retention of drivers and other employees.
The leadership change was one of several the company has undergone since reporting the largest quarterly loss in company history last year.
About the List
Nine of the 17 companies reporting revenue figures reported an increase in 2012 compared with the previous year. Eight reported declines.
The list itself saw little movement. In addition to J.B. Hunt’s jump to No. 2, the only other change in ranking occurred in the ninth- and 10th-place spots: P.A.M. Transport of Tontitown moved to ninth place from 10th last year, switching places with USA Truck.
Largest Private Fleets
Another list, the largest private trucking fleets operating in Arkansas, saw its first major change in several years with the purchase of Little Rock’s Mail Contractors of America by North Little Rock’s Pat Salmon & Sons. The combined company is now Salmon Cos. Company officials failed to return a number of phone calls from Arkansas Business seeking details on the development.