J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. continues selling tractors and trailers to reduce expenses as truck tonnage decreases in an uncertain retail and manufacturing environment.

Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport reported Thursday its full-year earnings for the period ended Dec. 31.

The company’s total revenue was up, largely due to increased fuel surcharges, as revenue in the inter modal division was flat and revenue in the dedicated contract services and truck segments was down from a year ago.

“Flat years, as defined by net earnings, are certainly never our goal,” said Kirk Thompson, J.B. Hunt president and chief executive officer. “It is not clear to us how long the challenging economic environment will persist.”

The inter modal segment, which moves freight by truck and rail, reported $1.95 billion in revenue for the year ended Dec. 31, a slight increase from the $1.65 billion reported as of Dec. 31, 2007.

The dedicated contract services segment reported $927 million in revenue for the year ended Dec. 31, down from the $936.6 million reported a year ago.
The truck segment reported $676.4 million in revenue for the year ended Dec. 31, down from the $841.6 million reported a year ago.

Jon A. Lagenfeld, trucking analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co., said in a research note to investors that “an economic recovery is unlikely until well into 2010.”

The American Trucking Associations reported truck tonnage dived 14.1 percent in December when compared with December 2007, the largest year-to-year decrease since February 1996.

“Motor carrier freight is a reflection of the tangible goods economy, and December’s numbers leave no doubt that the United States is in the worst recession in decades,” said Bob Costello, American Trucking Associations chief economist.

He does not expect truck tonnage to improve much before the third quarter.

The trucking associations calculates the tonnage each month based on reports by its member trucking companies.

J.B. Hunt is selling trailers and tractors to reduce expenses. J.B. Hunt Transport sold some tractors in 2008 but still had 120 for sale as of Dec. 31, the company reported. Those tractors will be sold or traded this year.
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