Longtime president & CEO of J.B. Transport Services Kirk Thompson will move up to become chairman of the company as of January 1st. He will replace Wayne Garrison while John N. Roberts III will become president & CEO.

J.B. Hunt noted that this executive transition has been in the works for several years, with all of the parties involved longtime veterans of the company. Garrison, who will remain on J.B. Hunt’s board of directors, joined the company in 1976 as a plant manager and steadily worked his way up the chain of command from vp of finance in 1978 to executive vp, president & CEO, and then chairman in 1995.

Thompson, who has been with J.B. Hunt for 37 years, has served as CEO since 1987 and added president to his title when Garrison became chairman. Thompson played an instrumental role in transitioning the company from a $286 million purely truckload carrier back in ‘87 to a multi-faceted transportation services company offering intermodal, dedicated contract carriage and logistics services that’s projected to post $3.8 billion in revenues this year, according to J.B. Hunt.

The company added that its market capitalization has grown from $500 million to over $4.4 billion during the same 1987 to 2010 timeframe. J.B. Hunt also posted net earnings of $52.2 million on operating revenue $986 million in the third quarter of 2010, up over $40 million and $834 million, respectively, compared to the same quarter in 2009.

Incoming president & CEO Roberts has been with J.B. Hunt for 21 years and currently serves as president of its Dedicated Contract Services (DCS) division. He led DCS from revenues of $150 million in 1997 to an expected $1 billion in revenues this year as a separate business segment. He’ll be replaced by Nick Hobbs, a 26-year company veteran who has served as senior vp of operations at DCS for over a decade.

“John and I have worked together closely for the last 13 years after he was drafted to lead DCS in a ‘battlefield promotion’ … [so] the board of directors and I are confident he will do a similarly outstanding job as the fourth CEO in J.B. Hunt’s history,” Thompson said. “With the company’s strategic positioning well established and operational execution at such a high level, this is the right time for me to step back from the day-to-day operations.”

“The company has never been in better shape fundamentally,” added Garrison. “With the management team in place, I am completely confident the future will yield even greater success.”