EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: J.B. Hunt is on a Mission to Create the Most Efficient Transportation Network in North America

July 6, 2020

An ACT Virtual Executive Interview with Craig Harper, EVP, COO, to hear how J.B. Hunt is dedicated to creating a sustainable, innovative supply chain.

Making business decisions that have a positive impact on the environment is a priority at J.B. Hunt. From decreasing overall carbon dioxide emissions to cutting energy consumption, environmental sustainability is important to their customers, the communities J.B. Hunt serves, and ultimately their success. J.B. Hunt is dedicated to creating a sustainable supply chain by advocating for a mode-agnostic approach to transportation, innovating fleet operations, exploring alternative vehicle and fuel solutions, leading conversations within the industry, and using data-driven insights to gain efficiency.

Craig will be joining a panel of industry experts discussing how they are all pushing ahead with cutting-edge technologies in an online event “Executive Panel: Exploring the Cutting Edge of Advanced Transportation Technology,” taking place at ACT Virtual on August 18.

ACT News caught up with Craig to learn about his accomplishments and vision for J.B. Hunt, and what he is most excited about for the future of the industry.

ACT News: You will be participating in an upcoming ACT Virtual executive panel on August 18 as part of “The Main Stage” online event series. Can you tell us some of the insight you plan on sharing with attendees related to how J.B. Hunt is exploring the cutting edge of advanced transportation technology?

Craig Harper: Our mission is to create the most efficient transportation network in North America. We are in the process of doing this with constant expansion of our J.B. Hunt 360°® platform to improve efficiency and eliminate waste in the supply chain. By properly matching trucks and loads and by providing transparency and visibility into the supply chain, J.B. Hunt can drive out empty miles, make more efficient use of available trucks and trailers, and help reduce time spent on unproductive tasks.

“We are actively pursuing the use of electric vehicles, staying abreast of advancements in autonomous technology, and continuing to explore the use of blockchain.”

We have made significant investments into intermodal chassis and containers. We hope to lead the way by asking ourselves and every other shipper and receiver to make certain that every load of freight that can move intermodally is moving in that manner. We know for a fact that intermodal is 250% more efficient than over-the-road trucking.

In addition, we are actively pursuing the use of electric vehicles, staying abreast of advancements in autonomous technology, and continuing to explore the use of blockchain.

ACT News: You lead the discovery initiatives and opportunities involving electric and autonomous vehicles and technologies at J.B. Hunt. What is your vision for how these technologies will improve the environmental and social aspects of the trucking industry in general, and how will they contribute to a large fleet such as J.B. Hunt?

Craig Harper: I see electric vehicles coming off the assembly line in 2025 in significant numbers and becoming widespread by 2030 to meet certain applications. We welcome the electric vehicles. We would love to have more operating right now. In a highly fragmented and competitive industry, we must remain committed to providing a cost-competitive service offering for our customers while also investing both time and capital into future transportation technologies.

“I see electric vehicles coming off the assembly line in 2025 in significant numbers and becoming widespread by 2030 to meet certain applications.”

J.B. Hunt is optimistic that a business case will exist for an alternative to diesel-powered equipment, particularly in some of our operations that utilize day cabs in a local and/or regional network. Challenges that we face in achieving this goal will be dependent on the following:

  1. Multiple suppliers of the alternative powered equipment with a robust service network to support the product.
  2. Readily available network of refueling and/or recharging locations.
  3. At least an equivalent Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) versus a diesel truck, taking into consideration the purchase price, maintenance cost, cost to power/charge, and residual values of the equipment.
  4. Ability to haul/transport similar goods, while remaining compliant with all federal and state regulations, including weight restrictions.
  5. The equipment must have a range capable of providing drivers an opportunity to maximize available hours in a workday, as regulated by the Department of Transportation’s Hours of Service regulations.
  6. The equipment must be reliable and provide sufficient uptime to allow J.B. Hunt to provide the high-quality service product for customers.

I see autonomous vehicles as being a longer-term, but important, technology in the future of freight transportation. But even with the tremendous investments being made by companies across the globe, it will be many years before we see large numbers of autonomous commercial trucks, and even more before we see a truck without a driver on public roadways. Much development remains for the technology, regulations, safety and security, and public acceptance of autonomous vehicles.

Although this technology is several years away from being mainstream in the industry, J.B. Hunt wants to be an active participant in the exploration and testing of this and other technologies that can help us become safer and more efficient.

“J.B. Hunt has always held itself to a high standard in the area of environmental sustainability.”

ACT News: J.B. Hunt is dedicated to creating a more sustainable transportation system. Please tell us about some of the proactive steps the company has taken to reach this goal.

Craig Harper: J.B. Hunt has always held itself to a high standard in the area of environmental sustainability. Our efforts to deliver more while using less have focused on five key areas: 1) creating efficiency and value through mode-agnostic shipping strategies; 2) use of fuel-saving equipment and practices; 3) exploring alternative energies; 4) engaging in and leading industry conversations; and 5) identifying efficiencies through data. These five principles bring together the customer-focused mindset of our people, our decades of operational expertise, and our industry-leading technology to provide sustainable, value-added solutions to our customers while reducing our carbon footprint.

We see tremendous potential for electric vehicles inside of J.B. Hunt. We have very focused efforts underway to incorporate electric vehicles into our fleet, as well as being a launch customer for the Tesla Semi with multiple trucks pre-ordered. We will begin testing the electric Freightliner eCascadia model this month in coordination with Daimler’s Customer Experience Fleet. Obviously, the incorporation of electric vehicles means lower fossil fuel consumption and fewer carbon emissions, but we also think this is an opportunity to enhance the skills of our drivers as early adopters of this new technology.

ACT News: In addition to environmental contributions, J.B. Hunt offers the program Carrier 360™. This logistics management and supply chain solution works for shippers and carriers as an integrated, multimodal approach to the marketplace to streamline operations. How does Carrier 360™ work and what are its advantages?

“The J.B. Hunt 360 platform has created a freight marketplace that gives shippers access to market-relevant pricing based on capacity. Carriers get access to every load in their preferred lanes.”

Craig Harper: The J.B. Hunt 360 platform consists of our carrier tools inside of Carrier 360™ and our shipper tools as part of Shipper 360™. Bringing the two together has created a freight marketplace that gives shippers access to market-relevant pricing based on capacity – so they get the right truck at the right price, at the right time. Carriers can use Carrier 360 to get instant access to every load in their preferred lanes and select the ones that are right for them based on the load characteristics. By transacting in the platform, carriers can get access to money-saving discounts on fuel, maintenance, tires and SiriusXM satellite radio, as well as qualifying for free quick pay terms.

From an efficiency perspective, J.B. Hunt 360 has helped us uncover areas where we can eliminate waste. In 2019, we filled over 1 million empty miles by successfully matching empty segments with under-utilized trucks. So far, we’ve tripled that number in the first half of 2020. We’ve also seen how the platform can help reduce costs. By analyzing over 650,000 facility reviews in Carrier 360 during 2019, we’ve uncovered a 7% average savings that can be achieved by eliminating excess transit.

ACT News: In this post COVID world, what are some of the precautions that J.B. Hunt is taking to protect drivers, employees, and the customers you come in contact with?

Craig Harper: As a provider of freight transportation services, we must balance the essential nature of the work we do with the safety of our drivers and employees. At the onset of the pandemic we established a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Team to review data associated with the state of the country and our specific locations. They continue to meet daily to discuss how this data should affect our decisions as a company.

“At the onset of the pandemic we established a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Team to review data associated with the state of the country our our specific locations.”

Since mid-March, many of our office employees have been working from home in order to reduce the risk of person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 in a typical office environment. During this time, we have increased cleaning in our offices and are outlining new rules for social distancing and use of protective supplies in the office once it is deemed safe for our employees to return.

For drivers, we have equipped them with appropriate protective supplies in accordance with state and local requirements and have outlined new requirements for cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces inside of cabs. In May, we introduced our electronic bills of lading (eBOLs) for both our drivers and third-party carriers to help reduce the number of manual touchpoints required for the exchange of shipment documentation. If any employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, they are required to self-report through our human resources team and self-quarantine for 14 days.

In addition to offering our eBOL process, we encourage customers to access their shipment documentation online using their Shipper 360 account, and we distributed our “Social Distancing Best Practices for Supply Chains” guide to our current customers.

“We take our commitment to safety very seriously and will not compromise the health and security of any driver, employee, or customer.”

For Final Mile in-home deliveries, we have created options for front-door or curbside delivery. For those customers who choose an in-home delivery, drivers and installers will follow established guidelines for self-reporting any COVID-19 health symptoms and will properly clean all commonly touched surfaces of their delivery truck before departing for any delivery. Upon arriving at a customer’s home, drivers and installers will use appropriate PPE, maintain proper social distancing, and confirm that the customer is not experiencing any symptoms of illness prior to entering the home. Once installation is complete, the delivery team will ask the customer for verbal acceptance of the delivery and record the acceptance using a mobile device.

We take our commitment to safety very seriously and will not compromise the health and security of any driver, employee, or customer.

ACT News: What advice would you offer to young professionals interested in pursuing a similar career path?

Craig Harper: Learn all you can. What podcast are you listening to? What YouTube videos are you watching? Are you expanding your networks? Be present, be aware of your surroundings. Who are you observing? Who are you listening to? Take out the earbuds. How many opportunities were sitting right next to you on the airplane, in the coffee line, or in the elevator? Don’t always be on auto pilot. Be alert. Listen to the conversations. Find a way to get into the conversation. Who is observing you? What are they seeing you do? What are they hearing you say? Be on point!

“Learn all you can. Are you expanding your networks? Be present, be aware of your surroundings. Be on point!”

ACT News: Before working at J.B. Hunt, what was the most unusual or interesting job you have ever had?

Craig Harper: Running a hazardous waste company. Who would have thought bringing in waste paint, solvents, greases and blending it all into fuels would have been a challenging, fun, and rewarding business? We made it so. We all believed in the mission and vision of recycling hazardous waste and keeping these waste products out of our lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, and landfills. We did this by recycling these waste products into fuel to be used in the process of making cement and to replace the burning of coal, a technique that is still used today.

ACT News: When you were eight years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Craig Harper: I can honestly say a truck driver. My father was a physician, but when I went to school and talked about our family at show and tell, I fibbed and told the class my dad was a truck driver. That came as a result of always looking up to my Uncle David, who had a big red conventional truck.