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J.B. Hunt’s Lofty Climate Goals: Aiming for 32% Carbon Emission Reduction by 2034

3 min read

Back in November, J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell announced it was setting an ambitious goal of reducing its carbon emissions intensity by 32% by the year 2034.

Earlier this month, the company highlighted some of its environmental, social and governance achievements in its 2022 Sustainability Report. In the report, J.B. Hunt reiterated its 32% emission reduction goal.

“Reaching this aggressive carbon intensity reduction goal will require existing and new solutions,” company CEO John Roberts and President Shelley Simpson wrote in the report. “Our roadmap to achieve this aspirational goal will help us to reduce our carbon emission intensity while holding true to our customer commitment to provide efficient, quality-driven, competitive supply chain solutions for moving their freight.”

The company is taking a three-pronged approach to reducing emissions: find transportation powered by alternative fuels, use more biogenic fuel and get better fuel economy.

J.B. Hunt moved more than 8 million loads in 2022, according to its fiscal 2022 earnings report filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. It spent more than $931 million on fuel (and fuel taxes) during the fiscal year.

Even small improvements to fuel efficiency or having fuel that is less toxic to the environment could have a significant impact, given J.B. Hunt’s scale. “Fuel is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions within the supply chain,” the company said in the report.

J.B. Hunt said it had eliminated more than 3.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions by transporting loads through intermodal rather than over-the-road trucks. Last year, company Chief Sustainability Officer Craig Harper told me switching as many loads as possible to intermodal is the quickest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Intermodal involves the use of a 53-foot container that can be shipped by freighter, then a train and then onto a tractor-trailer. Harper said an intermodal load produces 60% fewer emissions than a standard truck load.

Intermodal also happens to be J.B. Hunt’s specialty; the company has about 115,000 intermodal containers and aims to have 150,000 by 2027. Its intermodal segment generated more than $7 billion in revenue, nearly half of the company’s annual revenue, so what’s good for the environment would certainly be good for J.B. Hunt’s bottom line.

In addition to intermodal, J.B. Hunt uses its logistics platform to connect shippers’ products to carriers with capacity. This streamlining, the company said, eliminated 3.5 million dead miles in 2022, miles covered by trucks with empty trailers.

J.B. Hunt said it eliminated 29,000 metric tons of emissions in 2022 by improving its fuel economy. Much of that is done by using the most modern equipment.

It also said 48% of the company’s fuel purchases were for biogenic or renewable diesel. In 2020, J.B. Hunt said its goal was to convert one-quarter of its cab and truck fleet to zero-emission vehicles. Toward that end, the company ordered 13 such tractors from Nikola Corp. of Phoenix in July.

The commercial viability of widespread electric vehicles is a hot debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants a massive increase in EVs by 2032, which trucking industry officials have said is economically and logistically impractical.

The need for more electric vehicles seems pretty cut and dried. The EPA estimates that 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by vehicles and one-quarter of that comes from medium and heavy trucks.

J.B. Hunt has been using EVs for years in its final mile division, which is able to manage the vehicle’s shorter range and the limited EV infrastructure. The company said in 2023 it will continue to work with its partners to develop and improve electric vehicle technology.

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