J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., one of the largest supply chain service providers in North America, has launched a platform to bring shippers and carriers together in a single e-commerce platform.
The service, dubbed "Marketplace for J.B. Hunt 360," will connect shippers and carriers by using real-time data and artificial intelligence to match freight with capacity, Lowell, Ark.-based Hunt said. As carriers make offers on available loads, shippers will be provided real-time market pricing of shipments, the company said. The system will automate carrier selection based on preference, ratings and reviews, and other factors, Hunt said.
Separately, Hunt announced it will spend more than $500 million over the next five years on technologies to enhance its operating systems and develop cloud-based infrastructure. The company said it has doubled its engineering and technology workforce.
It made both announcements last Thursday.
Hunt's marketplace initiatives are an effort to further automate its legacy truckload business, which has become increasingly commoditized. Much of trucking's growth today is in the "dedicated contract carriage" segment, where a trucker dedicates equipment and drivers to serving an individual shipper, allowing that customer to lock in rates and capacity for a multi-year period. The service has gained popularity as shippers seek capacity assurance amid concerns over a shortage of truck drivers, and carriers pursue more predictable revenue streams.
Hunt's first-quarter dedicated revenues rose 10 percent year over year, while revenues for its truckload business, now the smallest of its four units, declined by 2 percent year over year. Intermodal accounts for more than half of the company's revenues.
The dedicated space is likely to grow, as advances in transport management technology improve supply chain reliability and precision and compel more carriers to allocate fleet resources to dedicated services and away from the one-way spot, or non-contract, market.