Shareholders of J.B. Hunt Transport Services approved a proposal to create a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation – a proposal opposed by Hunt’s Board of Directors.
Trillium Asset Management sent a representative from Boston to Arkansas to make the request in person at the company’s annual shareholder meeting Thursday (April 21) at the company’s corporate offices in Lowell.
The proposal passed with a 54.7% shareholders approval, despite the directors urging shareholders to vote against the proposal. In a statement made in the Proxy filing, the company said harassment and discrimination policies already in place were in accordance with federal laws and the company does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.
Brianna Murphy, of Trillium Asset Management, spoke to the board about the need for an amended nondiscrimination policy regarding sexual discrimination. She said 93% of Fortune 500 companies have already adopted inclusion policies regarding sexual orientation. She said the companies report increased employee satisfaction and it helps in their recruitment efforts. Murphy said the company would not incur substantial costs in amending its present plan to mirror those of its peers and business partners in the community.
Shareholders also elected a slated of 11 directors to a term of one-year, but absent from this year’s ballot was veteran director Dr. John White, who at age 76 was the senior board member. White, the former University of Arkansas Chancellor, served on the J.B.Hunt board for 18 years. As White was presented with a plaque for his service, he said the gift will be displayed in his office at the UA in hopes of encouraging more students to join Hunt upon graduation and increase the value of his company shares.
Prior to 2013, J.B Hunt had an age limit of 72 for its directors, but that has since been amended to retirement, removal or death, regardless of age. White is retiring his post which leaves the board with 11 directors. The corporate guidelines state that the number of directors can range from 3 to 12.
Board members elected for a one-year term were: Douglas Duncan, Francesca Edwardson, Wayne Garrison, Sharilyn Gasaway, Gary George, Bryan Hunt, Coleman Peterson, John Roberts, III, James Robo, and Kirk Thompson, all of which received at least 91% of the votes cast.
Thompson, board chairman and former CEO, told the small group of shareholders that he tried to book the Rolling Stones but John Roberts would have to be their entertainment today. Roberts joked that he hated to take the podium after that introduction, but he spent a few minutes addressing the shareholders with a short message.
He said the company has come full circle in the past 27 years. The trucking company that was the foundation for the business began a resurgence at the perfect time as intermodal growth was stagnant between 2014 and 2015. He said the other business units such as brokerage, final mile and dedicated freight don’t have to carry the company on their own but when they perform well it takes the pressure off the intermodal division which is the larger revenue source.
He said intermodal will do most of the work but it’s the compliment from truckload, brokerage and other units that propel the company’s growth. Roberts also shared several new initiatives introduced last year including J.B. Hunt Drive, a mobile application that helps drivers manage everything from time availability, paperwork such as driver logs, messaging and safety rewards for accident free miles.
“Prior to the J.B. Hunt Drive, our drivers were closely tethered to their trucks, this app gives them greater flexibly,” Roberts said.
The app was developed in house by Hunt and has been downloaded more than 10,000 times.
Roberts also said project “Elevation,” was a “big deal” over the past year and going forward, He said a team of 25 people across the company met monthly to brainstorm and process ideas that would help move the company. Last year he said the group processed more than 5,000 ideas and 500 were approved.
Project Next was another program Roberts said is making a difference in the company’s tech infrastructure. He said this group looked at ways technology can be used to optimize efficiencies and raise the bottom line.
The board of directors also approved a quarterly cash dividend of 22 cents per share while meeting Thursday. The dividend is payable May 20 to shareholders of record on May 6. Shares of J.B. Hunt Transport Services (NASDAQ: JBHT) were trading lower on Thursday at $87.14, down 2.03% in the morning session. For the past 52-weeks the share price has ranged from a $92.15 high to a $63.58 low.
Analysts with Stephens Inc. recently raised their target price on Hunt shares to $100, from $92 following the company’s recent first quarter earnings for 2016. Stephens also raised their full-year per share earnings guidance to $3.95, from $3.90, based on the strength the company displayed in what was expected to be a more challenging first quarter. Stephens analyst Brad Delco is overweight on the shares, meaning they should outperform the broader markets this year. Stephens conducts investment banking business with J.B. Hunt Transport and is compensated accordingly.