J.B. Hunt executive discusses data’s role in logistics

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,236 views 

The future of logistics is about data, integration and speed, said an executive of Lowell-based carrier J.B. Hunt Transport Services.

In a recent FreightWaves webinar, Josh Phelan, vice president of finance for highway services at J.B. Hunt, discussed the impact of data on logistics and the carrier’s partnership with Google. Phelan said he spends most of his time on finance and strategy for the carrier’s technology platform J.B. Hunt 360.

“What I’m excited to see is how data’s going to increase both the speed and sustainability of the logistics business,” he said. “We need to get faster at solving problems, and we need to do them in a sustainable way. I think you’re going to see data leading that.”

The top customer requests regard tracking and visibility, Phelan said. Customers not only want access to capacity, but they also want transparency and visibility, he said. Hardware and connections are needed for that to happen, but data and how it’s used are also important, he added.

“We’re excited to align with Google to accelerate what we’ve been working on and to be able to use their data capabilities, their platform knowledge on how we can take that exponentially to our customers and our carrier base as well,” Phelan said.

As COVID-19 disrupted inventories and supply chains, the supply chain has become a top concern for consumer packaged goods customers. Consumer demand for faster shipping speeds, such as next-day or two-day shipping, has led the customers to build inventories to accommodate this and meet margin targets.

In 2020, Phelan said the freight market faced a dislocation of capacity, customers, demand and routes, resulting in capacity constraints from which the market has yet to recover.

“I think 2021 could shape up to be as unique as 2020,” he said.