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More revenue per mile boosts J.B. Hunt earnings despite fewer trucks running in fleet

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A revenue increase boosted earnings for J.B. Hunt Transport Services (NASDAQ: JBHT), driving up the stock this morning more than 3% in premarket trading. The truckload carrier reported second-quarter net earnings of $151.7 million, or $1.37 per share, versus second-quarter 2017 net earnings of $97.9 million, or 88 cents per share.

Analysts expected earnings of $1.28 per share. After the early-morning boost to the stock price, J.B. Hunt stock had declined to $124.77 a share in mid-morning trading, off a little more than 3%.

The carrier saw revenue increase 24% to $2.14 billion and its tax rate decline to 26% from 37.4% a year ago. The Integrated Capacity Solutions (ICS) saw income climb to $14.93 million on a 56.1% jump in revenue to $347.3 million. Truck was up 34.5% to $7.48 million on revenue of $101.24 million, a 7% increase, while Dedicated Contract Services (DCS) posted a 20.3% increase in income to $58.45 million on revenue of $529.98 million. Finally, Intermodal revenue jumped 22.1% to $134 million on revenue of $1.16 billion.

Total operating revenue was $187 million  in the second quarter, up 20.8% over 2017 Q2, with an operating margin rate improving 50 bps to 10%. Operating income for the quarter was $214.8 million versus $163.6 million a year ago, buoyed by rate increases, volume growth and increases in revenue producing truck counts. These were “partially offset by increases in rail, over the road and outsourced dray purchased transportation costs, start-up costs associated with new DCS contracts, higher driver wages and recruiting costs, increased office and support personnel costs, increased technology costs for structural upgrades, and further development of J.B. Hunt 360, increased losses on the sale of equipment and increased equipment maintenance and facility costs,” the company said in its earnings statement.

On the equipment side, the fleet actually downsized slightly, with 1976 tractors in operation – down 96 year-over-year, and 6,928 trailers in operation, down 676.

J.B. Hunt took advantage of the tight capacity market, with revenue per load and load growth showing increases in all segments. Intermodal posted a 12% growth in revenue per load and 4% more loads. Within DCS, the numbers were 17% and 10%, respectively, while ICS posted a 13% increase in revenue per mild and a 38% increase in volume. Truck posted a 14% increase in rates per loaded mile, the company said.

Within its segments, Intermodal benefited from rate changes, fuel surcharges and freight mix, although transcontinental loads decreased 2% from 2017 Q2, the company said, due to network congestion and freight mix changes away from higher-cost drayage movements. Eastern network volumes increased 13% and overall revenue in the segment in was up 16%.  

DCS revenue was up 29% overall in the current quarter as revenue per truck increased 10% (7% excluding fuel surcharge) due to rate increases, improved integration of assets and increased customer supply chain fluidity. Final Mile Services (FMS), reported under the DCS group, increased $39 million ($25.8 million attributed to July 2017 acquisition) versus 2017 Q2. A total of 1,284 trucks were added to the fleet over last year – 148 more since the first quarter of this year. Of these trucks, 55% represent private fleet conversions and 39% represent FMS versus traditional dedicated capacity fleets.

ICS revenue was up 56% and revenue per load increased 13%, again primarily due to rate increases – both contract and spot. Spot volumes jumped 63% and contractual volumes improved 28% from a year ago and made up approximately 68% of total load volume and 45% of total revenue. Both of those are down slightly from 73% and 58% in 2017 Q2. Of total ICS revenue, $137 million came from J.B. Hunt 360. Operating income increased $15.1 million over the same period 2017 primarily from a higher gross profit margin, improved operating leverage in branches open more than two years and lower insurance and claims costs partially offset by higher personnel costs and higher technology development costs as the company continues to expand J.B. Hunt 360.

J.B. Hunt Truck benefited from higher revenue per load and lower equipment ownership costs as revenue increased 7%. Increased driver wage cost, higher independent contractor cost per mile, increased driver recruitment costs and an average of 180 unseated trucks offset some of the gains made. Operating income increased 35% in the quarter. With fewer trucks running – 1,976 versus 2,072 a year ago – Truck saw a decreased in load count, but revenue per load climbed 14%.

The company ended the second quarter with $15.2 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand and debt totaling approximately $1 billion. That was up slightly from 2017 Q2’s $943 million but down from $1.09 billion at the end of the fourth quarter.

 ( Chart: Morgan Stanley )
( Chart: Morgan Stanley )
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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.