J.B. Hunt Transportation Services generated record fourth quarter net earnings of $84 million, an $11.4 million rise over 2011’s total.
Operating revenue for the fourth quarter also rose, year over year, from $1.2 billion to $1.34 billion.
J.B. Hunt, based in Lowell, Ark., continued to pay down debt in 2012, finishing the year down $685 million, compared to $749 million in debt at the end of 2011.
On the trucking side, fourth-quarter segment revenue and operating income were down 12 percent and 27 percent, respectively, year over year. Hurricane Sandy relief efforts helped bump rates per mile up 8.9 percent in the quarter, while rates from consistent shippers improved by 1.6 percent.
But even with record results for the fourth quarter (if mixed results overall), the transportation company has still outlined some aggressive plans for 2013.
According to BB&T Capital Markets, the most achievable of J.B. Hunt’s goals for 2013 is a 10 percent to 15 percent intermodal load growth coupled with a 1 percent increase in revenue per load. This intermodal growth will be realized, the analysts said, despite shortening the haul length because of a 2 percent bump in rates.
The company would also like its brokerage arm to improve loads by 15 percent to 20 percent; BB&T analysts think this could be achieved, but that four straight quarters of brokerage growth might be a stretch. Goals that may not be in the cards include maintaining the fleet at 2,200 units with utilization and margin improvement, and dedicated contract services revenue growth of 10 percent to 15 percent.
J.B. Hunt finished the year with close to 59,000 containers, after deferring the delivery of 1,200 to 2013. The company will add around 5,100 more containers in 2013.
Analysts found that most of these goals are on track so far this year. Intermodal is showing normal growth, but might be a bit sluggish when compared year-over-year, and dedicated contract and brokerage are both going strong. - Jon Ross