Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services continues to find a way to push earnings higher in a tough economy. The company reported Thursday (Oct. 11) that its third-quarter revenue was up 11% and net income was up 13.9%.

“Net earnings rose 14% to $78.2 million in the current quarter from $68.7 million in 2011, primarily due to the growth of revenue, slightly less interest expense and a slightly lower tax rate,” the company explained in the earnings statement released after markets closed on Thursday.

The per share earnings of 65 cents just missed the consensus analyst estimate of 66 cents per share.

Still leading the financial charge for J.B. Hunt is the company’s intermodal segment. Intermodal revenue during the quarter was $794 million, up 15%, with operating income up 25% to $97.9 million.

“Positive results from steady load growth, improved container utilization and drayage efficiencies contributed to better overall network balance,” the company noted in the earning statement. “Cost increases in rail purchase transportation and from shortages in the available driver market partially offset the benefits of improved operations.”

The dedicated contract services segment saw revenue increase 1% to $273 million, with operating income up 14% to $25.6 million.

The integrated capacity solutions segment posted quarterly revenue of $121 million, up 30%. Operating income was $5.5 million, up 43%.

However, the company’s trucking segment reflects the ongoing struggle in the U.S. trucking industry to balance costs and capacity with tepid freight volume. Trucking segment revenue was down 8%, with operating income falling 41% compared to the same quarter of 2011.

“Operating income decreased 41% compared to third quarter 2011 as improved rates were not sufficient to offset lower utilization and increases in empty miles, employee health care costs, driver wages, and costs to attract independent contractors,” the company noted in the statement.

For the first nine months of the year, revenue is $3.716 billion, ahead of the $3.321 billion in the same period of 2011. Net income for the first nine months reached $226.377 million, up almost 23% compared to the 2011 period.

Company shares (NASDAQ: JBHT) closed Thursday at $54.79, up 17 cents. During the past 52 weeks, the share price has ranged from a $61.18 high to a $38.13 low.

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The City Wire Staff

The City Wire Staff

The City Wire, a content partner with Talk Business & Politics, is a media company that covers business, politics and culture in the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas regions of the state. Read online at TheCityWire.com or follow on Twitter: @TheCityWire.