- J.B. Hunt has seen an increase in driver hiring and independent contractors “looking to attach into a larger system that has better freight consistency,” as concerns about a recession loom, Brad Hicks, president of highway services, said on a Q2 earnings call.
- With falling spot rates and inflated fuel costs pressuring smaller carriers, “I do feel like we've seen elements, … even relative to some of our driver hiring improvement that we've experienced, that could be representative of people looking for a safer place,” Hicks said.
- J.B. Hunt put employees first in a list of defining company principles it debuted in the quarter to emphasize a commitment to its growing workforce, said Shelley Simpson, chief commercial officer and executive vice president of people and human resources.
Market downturns have silver linings for larger carriers. In addition to improved hiring, J.B. Hunt has seen pronounced growth in the number of contractors joining its JBT segment, which provides full-load, dry van freight services. “I do think [that] is a relative element of people that were out operating on their own,” Hicks said.
“Obviously, every day in the news, there are some carriers [quitting] that we're seeing,” Hicks said. “And we would probably anticipate, given the rate levels in the spot environment, that there is a likelihood of more of that in the balance of the year.”
While larger carriers have also faced inflated fuel and labor costs in recent months, they’re typically better positioned to capitalize on growing financial pressures in the industry than their smaller competitors. For example, Knight-Swift is reaping some of the same benefits in its recruitment levels, President and CEO David Jackson said on Q2 earnings call.
“We anticipate that sourcing and retaining drivers will continue … to improve as we have seen thus far, as it has been particularly challenging for small carriers, and we are seeing signs of drivers looking for new opportunities,” Jackson said.
J.B. Hunt executives did not provide hiring statistics during the company’s earnings call.
Its other foundational principles unveiled in Q2 are “technology that empowers” and “capacity to deliver,” Simpson said.
“That is J.B. Hunt,” Simpson said. “It is by no accident that ‘people’ comes first.”