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Rail News: Intermodal

In memoriam: Intermodal and trucking maverick J.B. Hunt

J.B. Hunt, an intermodal pioneer and founder of one of North America’s largest trucking companies, died Dec. 7. He was 79.

In 1969, Johnnie Bryan Hunt Sr. — or J.B. Hunt, as he was prominently known in the intermodal and trucking industries — formed J. B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. The company, which currently employs more than 16,000, and manages a fleet of 11,000 trucks and 47,000 trailers and containers, went public in 1983.

In 1989, Hunt and Mike Haverty — then president of Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and current chairman and chief executive officer of Kansas City Southern — reached a deal to move truck trailers via rail on the BNSF Railway Co. predecessor’s trains. The landmark pact helped pave the way for the rise in intermodalism in the rail and trucking industries.

In 1998, Hunt was named a founding father of intermodal transportation by the University of Denver’s Intermodal Transportation Institute (ITI).

He led J. B. Hunt Transport Services until 1995, when he retired as chairman. Hunt continued to serve on the board as senior chairman until 2004 and, along with his wife of 54 years Johnelle, remained the company’s largest shareholder. During his retirement, Hunt pursued opportunities as a private investor in real estate, construction, development and other projects.

He previously served as director of the American Trucking Association Foundation and member of ITI’s board. Hunt is survived by his wife, a son and daughter.

“The son of Depression-era sharecroppers from rural Arkansas, J.B. leaves us with a legacy of hard work, family values, the importance of faith, the example of what determination can accomplish, an appreciation for philanthropy and a ton of memories,” J. B. Hunt Transport Services officials said in a prepared statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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