Craig Harper to retire after 31 years with J.B. Hunt

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,223 views 

Craig Harper, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer at J.B. Hunt Transport

Craig Harper, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer for J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., will retire after 31 years with the Lowell-based carrier, according to a Thursday (Dec. 14) news release. The retirement is effective Dec. 31.

As part of company safety and sustainability leadership changes, Greer Woodruff will become executive vice president of safety, sustainability and maintenance on Jan. 1. Woodruff is senior vice president over safety, security and driver personnel.

“On behalf of the over 35,000 employees that work here, on behalf of the board of directors and on behalf of the shareholders of this company, I offer our heartfelt thanks to Craig, and that’s not near enough to convey the value that he’s brought to us all,” CEO John Roberts said. “Craig is very much a part of that group of leaders that will never be forgotten, and he has made an incalculable commitment, investment and improvement to J.B. Hunt.”

President Shelley Simpson posted Wednesday (Dec. 13) on social media about Harper’s retirement.

“Today was emotional for me. We celebrated the retirement of Craig Harper after 31 years in the Million Mile Auditorium and just finished dinner with he and his family,” Simpson wrote. “He probably influenced my career more than anyone else did for the 10 years that I worked for him.”

In 2001, Harper was Simpson’s supervisor when she came to his office to tell him she was going to quit after the birth of her son. Harper encouraged Simpson to remain with the company and focus on her newborn son. Two years later, she transitioned to part-time after her twin daughters were born.

“How he treated me during that time made me feel seen, heard, valued, safe and respected,” Simpson added. “Always a believer in people, Craig made me dream big, told me I could be a CEO and had unwavering commitment to my success – not just at work but as a person.

“His love for his family inspires me. His deep care and passion motivates me. There isn’t anyone that isn’t better for knowing Craig Harper. I’m one of the blessed ones that got a front-row seat learning and growing under his leadership. My appreciation is immeasurable.”

About three years ago, Harper was named chief sustainability officer, a new role for the company at the time. He had been chief operations officer since 1997. Before that, he was chief safety officer, which also was a new role for the company at the time.

As chief sustainability officer, Harper was responsible for leading the company’s focus on sustainability initiatives, such as improvements in environmental actions. This included overseeing new developments in equipment technologies, like electric and autonomous vehicles.

Woodruff has worked in multiple roles in his 36-year career at J.B. Hunt. He helped to centralize driver recruitment and application processing, establish truck driver training programs across the United States, and kept the company’s fleet of more than 25,000 drivers up to date on the newest safety, compliance and technology best practices.

For many years, Woodruff and Harper worked alongside each other to create and advance the company’s safety culture. The two helped to establish the company’s Million Mile program, celebrating its drivers who achieve at least 1 million miles without a preventable accident. The program has recognized more than 4,600 drivers throughout the company’s history.

In his new role, Woodruff will lead the company’s sustainability initiatives, improve safety and corporate security, and oversee its equipment, maintenance and drivers.

“J.B. Hunt sets the bar today for the industry on so many levels, and Craig has been a big part of that,” said Nick Hobbs, chief operating officer and president of contract services at J.B. Hunt. “He was instrumental in helping create our safety culture and service excellence, and I am confident that Greer will continue advancing those efforts, delivering value for our customers and shareholders and maintaining our fleet’s commitment to being one of the safest on the road.”

Before Harper was named chief sustainability officer, he touted the benefits of J.B. Hunt’s intermodal segment in how it can help to reduce carbon emissions by converting over-the-road truck shipments to intermodal.

“We’ve always been trying to look at ways to reduce our carbon footprint,” Harper said in 2018. “We do a lot of that with our intermodal operations. Last year alone, we saved 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by putting that freight on the train instead of having the trucks on the road hauling that freight. That’s equivalent to taking 700,000 cars off the road a year. It goes along again with our goals of having safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable transportation.”

Harper made those remarks at a media event showing some of the first all-electric trucks that J.B. Hunt added to its fleet. The five battery-electric Mitsubishi Fuso eCanter trucks were not company-owned. The first company-owned, battery-electric vehicle that the carrier added to its fleet was a Freightliner eCascadia. The company received the first in December 2022 after piloting the truck in 2020 – the year the company completed its first delivery with a class 8 electric truck, the largest truck class.

In 2021, the company released its first report highlighting achievements in environmental, social and corporate governance. The 2020 Sustainability Report was the first of its kind for the company. In the report, Harper noted the company’s commitment to convert at least 25% of its day cab and straight truck fleet to an alternative power fuel source by 2035.

In November 2022, the company announced a goal to cut its carbon emission intensity by 32% by 2034 from 2019 levels. Adding alternative-powered vehicles into its fleet was one of the three focus areas in reaching the goal. The others comprise expanding the use of biogenic fuels and improving fuel economy, including diesel-powered trucks.

In 2017, J.B. Hunt reserved 40 Tesla Semi electric trucks, and earlier this year, ordered 13 zero-emission Nikola trucks. Harper recently said the company will add the Nikola trucks to its “fleet when they are available and have met the company’s high level of safety standards.”

Shares of J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT) closed Thursday at $201.73, up $5.72 or 2.92%. In the past 52 weeks, the stock has ranged between $163.66 and $209.21.