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J.B. Hunt braced for ‘chaotic’ balance of 2021, Simpson says

Unprecedented conditions will elevate technology’s role more than ever, company’s chief commercial officer says in keynoting FreightWaves LIVE @HOME

J.B. Hunt's Shelley Simpson opens up the FreightWaves LIVE @HOME event with a keynote interview with FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller.

This keynote interview is part of FreightWaves’ LIVE @HOME virtual event

Unprecedented product, equipment and labor dislocations will persist through most, if not all, of 2021, putting all supply chain stakeholders to the test and elevating technology’s role in driving customer solutions, Shelley Simpson, the chief commercial officer of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. (NASDAQ:JBHT), said Wednesday.

Keynoting the FreightWaves LIVE @HOME two-day event, Simpson said the current operating environment is the most challenging she has experienced in 27 years in the industry. Expenses have “far outpaced” Hunt’s expectations, Simpson told FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller. In addition, the company and its customers continue to cope with an uneven labor market, the ongoing legacy of the impact wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

“We know it’s going to be chaotic,” Simpson said, referring to conditions for the rest of the year.

In response, Hunt has ramped up its technology investments, led by a major push to integrate its J.B. Hunt 360 digital freight-matching platform across its five divisions. The platform was launched in brokerage because it was easier to operationally implement than in its other units, Simpson said. The platform has since evolved to encompass all of Hunt’s operations.

The next big step is to combine the technology and Hunt’s expanded over-the-road fleet to make equipment immediately available to handle live loads booked on the 360 platform, Simpson said. The Lowell, Arkansas-based company recently spent $1.25 billion to procure 3,000 360 trailers along with tractors and 12,000 intermodal containers with the objective of building more seamless truckload solutions.

To further its technological reach, Hunt has entered into an alliance with search engine giant Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG). The alliance is aimed at leveraging Google’s expertise in data science and machine learning to support Hunt’s customer-solutions strategy, Simpson said.

Simpson disputed the conventional wisdom that lifestyle issues are at the heart of a continued shortage of qualified truckload drivers. Hunt has drivers in the intermodal and dedicated contract carriage segments that enjoy driving long-haul, irregular routes and look to change things up from time to time, she said. “You can’t pigeonhole any one person into one area” of truck driving, she said.

The far bigger problem for drivers, and for everyone in the industry, is the colossal amount of time wasted just waiting to move a load, she said. On average, the nation’s truck fleet spends one-third of their 11 hours of daily on-duty time either idling or parked, Simpson said. 

The harsh realities of today’s trucking supply chain don’t make it easier to recruit and retain qualified drivers, she said.


  1. Javis

    If the company pay good to the driver’s and take care. The good driver’s never go to another company. Im driving for than 28 years and i don’t see a good increase.. the Mechanics are very expensive..all the truck drivers need good pay….


    The good drivers are taken for granted,even though, they keep the company moving forward safely. A pay increase is needed.

  3. Kenneth Butler

    Excuse Me. Everyone is talking about the driver shortages, but no one is talking about raising the pay for good driver, I am a NE regional driver, I have driven my truck the whole time Covid has been going on, risking my life daily, running all over the NE, does the company care? We need more$$$, away from our family for days, for what? HURRY UP AND DELIVER, LOAD MORE IMPORTANT THAN FAMILY MEMBERS, OR COVID, we move America, WHERE IS THE $$$, NO TICKETS , NO ACCIDENTS,EXCELLENT CASA SCORE, NO ONE EVEN TALKING ABOUT $$$,
    Think I will go home were I am APPRECIATED

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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.