Johnelle Hunt is one of the most influential women in the transportation industry after co-founding J.B. Hunt Transport Services with her husband in 1961.
How did you get your start in the transportation industry and what did it feel like to see J.B Hunt grow into one of the largest transportation and logistics providers in North America?
In 1969, Johnnie and I co-founded J.B. Hunt Transport with five trucks and seven trailers. I knew we had to have money coming in to keep the lights on and our employees paid, so I got very good at collections. It was very much a different business then, and I was just in awe as the company grew to become one of the largest transportation companies in North America.While I’m no longer involved with running the company, I think the leadership is fantastic, and I am proud to see that the hard work both Johnnie and I started is continuing on with a lot of very talented people. We help several businesses do well, and many people have jobs because of the dreams that Johnnie kept on having. It’s nice to see that legacy continue.
You’re seen as one of the most influential and entrepreneurial women in the transportation industry. How have you advocated for the education and opportunities that have lead to an increased number of women seeking careers in supply chain management?
I have tried my best to speak in front of as many women as possible. I’ve always been very good at listening to good advice, and I feel like my experience can resonate with a number of women. I’m living proof that women can succeed in this industry. I never backed down from any job that needed doing in our business. Women bring a different perspective to the table, and that perspective is necessary for moving any transportation organization forward.
What are some qualities you’ve seen in female truck drivers that make them such an asset to the industry?
I try to tell young people: Find out where you want to go to work, get a job there, go in and do everything you see that needs to be done, and you will rise to the top because you will be noticed. You have to put your heart into your work – and I always have. Even when things got tough, I was patient and trusted that everything would work out. Transportation is a great field for women – we get things done and see situations differently, and I’m thrilled to know that we have women driving trucks. Anyone can do it, they just have to be confident of what they can achieve and stay on that path.
How do you think mentorship programs and training initiatives lead to well-trained, reliable, and loyal female truck drivers?
Johnnie started out as a truck driver, and he was on the road for many important family events. We had to make sacrifices like that, and it helped me understand the difficulties of the trucking industry. We have to support and encourage the men and women who make these sacrifices to help support their families. Johnnie and I were always there for our drivers when they needed us, and I think that’s one of the most important factors in driver retention. Even at 2 am, when they would call, I would listen to the issues they were having. For women, we have to provide the same level of support and mentorship.
At J.B. Hunt today, there are a number of mentorship and training programs that have been established over the years, from the company’s GROW (Growing and Retaining Outstanding Women) employee resource group to J.B. Hunt’s involvement with the Women in Trucking organization. It’s exciting to see the company’s continued commitment to supporting its drivers.