Truckload carrier J. B. Hunt Transport Services said its net earnings slipped to $4.5 million in the third-quarter compared net earnings of $9.1 million in the same quarter last year.

However, the Lowell, AR-based carrier said that while July and August results projected an earnings shortfall for the quarter, those deficits were partially erased by strong business in September. Yet many trucking companies showed a loss in business due in part to the terrorist attacks of September 11. In fact, the carrier said that for the month of September, it had the lowest empty miles per load in over a year and the best tractor utilization so far in 2001.

The carrier added that total revenue for the third quarter of 2001 reached $537.2 million, up slightly from $509.4 million during the third quarter of 2000. J.B. Hunt said revenues from its truckload business grew 1%, while intermodal revenue rose 9%, and dedicated contract carriage business climbed 8%, compared to the same period in 2000.

J.B. Hunt said its operating revenues for the first nine months of 2001 totaled $1.554 billion, compared with $1.626 billion in 2000. Revenue growth for 2001 was 11%, adjusted for the logistics segment business, which is contributed to a jointly owned logistics company, Transplace. Net earnings for the first nine months of 2001 reached $14.8 million, down from $25.2 million in 2000.

J.B. Hunt said its truckload and intermodal segments recorded substantial improvement in operations relative to previous periods, despite intense cost pressures and economic woes affecting the entire transportation industry. Additionally, truck rates – excluding fuel surcharges – increased 3.4% for the quarter vs. a year ago.

Going forward, J.B. Hunt believes the economy will remain challenging for some time and therefore expects continued volatility in monthly and quarterly earnings. Freight volumes in early October, for example, have shown weakness not typical in previous years. Additional rate increases will be necessary as rising costs continue to press upon the entire trucking industry in a number of areas, the carrier said.