American ShipperIntermodal

Analyst: Intermodal leads the way for JB Hunt

   Things are looking up for JB Hunt, according to a BB&T analysis ahead of the company’s release of first-quarter results.
   BB&T predicts intermodal volumes will rise near the top of a company projection, finishing the quarter at 14 percent (the company has a growth target of between 10 and 15 percent). The industry as a whole has grown 8.7 percent so far this year. BB&T’s prediction, though, defies seasonal trends going back 20 years that show first-quarter numbers average a significant activity drop off from the fourth quarter of the previous year. BB&T’s estimate has JB Hunt hauling 1,500 more loads than it did in the fourth quarter.
   Intermodal activity will accelerate, the analysts wrote, due to recent rail yard openings in the east that will remove bottlenecks and improve truck service. Revenue per load will tick up by 1 percent, the analysts wrote, with rates staying about the same.
   “January volumes were a bit of a pleasant surprise, February was choppy and March has generally been fairly strong, albeit with some surprisingly inconsistent days,” the analysts said.
   On the brokerage side, JB Hunt is adding 10 brokerage offices this year and will concentrate on selling refrigerated and less-than-truckload services. Brokerage loads, according to BB&T, will rise by 45 percent.
   Moving forward, the company’s dedicated arm will see success due to a movement of non-trucking companies from the market, a ramping up of customized services, and JB Hunt’s openness to buying non-trucking companies out of existing leases. BB&T expects dedicated to see load growth of more than 10 percent and high single-digit revenue growth.
   JB Hunt will release its first-quarter results on April 11. – Jon Ross