J. B. Hunt Transport Services revealed its financial performance for the fourth quarter 2009, which was characterized by lower earnings and slightly lower operating revenue compared to the fourth quarter of 2008.

"While we are disappointed in the decline in earnings, we are encouraged by the expanding connection we see between our business units and how we can leverage our services together for the benefit of our customers," said Kirk Thompson, president and CEO. "All of our business segments experienced pricing pressure and resulting margin contraction aggravated by the on-going recession. The pressure contributed significantly to the decline in earnings for the year. Prices must increase substantially to ensure a viable transportation industry through adequate returns."

The Arkansas-based carrier reported net earnings of $41.7 million, or 32 cents a share, compared with $53.3 million, or 41 cents a share, during the fourth quarter of 2008. Total operating revenue for the fourth quarter of 2009 was $877 million compared with $880 million for the year-ago period.

Within J. B. Hunt's truck segment, revenue was down 9 percent to $118 million, a reflection of freight rates, the company says. In addition, the segment posted a loss of $1.3 million during the quarter, versus a greater loss of $4.4 million in the year-ago quarter. However, the segment managed to improve asset utilization by 16 percent over the fourth quarter of 2008.

The company's Integrated Capacity Solutions segment saw revenue up 11 percent to $67 million, while operating income was down 49 percent to $1.7 million.

"As a result of 2009 bids, tightened carrier capacity and competitive pricing, our margins declined precipitously during the current quarter," the company said.