Editor's note: This is part one of a four-part series looking at how fleets are seeking to diversify their businesses and reach new customers in a time of technological and commercial disruption.
Diversification is nothing new for J.B. Hunt Transport Services. One of the nation’s largest multimodal transport and logistics solution providers, the Arkansas-based company enjoys a well-earned reputation for developing innovative services, sometimes rolling out several at nearly the same time.
Among its game-changers are the intermodal freight movements it began in 1989 and its 2014 launch of J.B. Hunt Carrier 360 and Shipper 360, a digital freight-matching platform accessible by carriers in Hunt’s network as well as shippers online or via a specialized app.
J.B. Hunt 360 is something of a launch pad and support platform for related innovations, the most recent of which was introduced last summer: J.B. Hunt 360box, a drop-and-hook service enhanced by a pool of 53-foot trailers.
The service is set up to leverage a pool of 500 trailers that businesses can reserve for drop-trailer purposes. The 360box service is fueled by carriers that make offers to transport the trailers using the Carrier 360 platform. Hunt plans to deepen the pool as market demand grows.
The idea is to help carriers in Hunt’s network make more money driving and spend less by not owning and maintaining trailers. At the same time, it’s adding capacity and flexibility to customer supply chains — so shipper and carrier both gain efficiency.
The pool helps level the playing field for smaller carriers, giving them access to drop-and-hook freight that typically would be hauled by large carriers with more trailers of their own. By using Hunt’s trailers, shippers with consistent freight can connect with small fleets and owner-operators, which the company says account for 83% of all drivers.
What’s more, since the pool means there’s no need to immediately load and unload trailers, there’s no productivity loss from waiting at a dock door or being detained. Rather, a driver drops a trailer in a designated area and goes on to his next load.
“As much as one-third of a driver’s day includes idle time and empty miles,” says Shelley Simpson, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of J.B. Hunt. “When considering there are 3.5 million drivers, that’s a lot of waste. 360box is designed to transform that inefficiency into productivity, keeping drivers on the move with full trailers.”
Each 360box trailer is outfitted with technology that provides end-to-end load tracking and monitoring. The company completed installation of tracking technology on all of its more than 100,000 company trailers and containers in 2018.
J.B. Hunt is also actively growing its last-mile freight delivery capabilities, a diversification it has built with acquisitions. It acquired Secaucus, New Jersey-based Cory 1st Choice Home Delivery last year and Special Logistics Dedicated back in 2017.
To help further drive that growth, last month the company acquired the assets of RDI Last Mile. Founded in 1987, the South Easton, Massachusetts-based operation specializes in the home delivery of furniture in the Northeast by using contract carriers.
J.B. Hunt’s Final Mile Services is a division of the company’s Dedicated Contract Services business unit. With the RDI acquisition, Final Mile Services is expected to expand its home-delivery operations and grow to include more than 104 locations and 3.2 million square feet of warehouse and facilities space.