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More mixed results

Trucking companies turned in mixed first-quarter earnings results, with some reporting a significant boost in profits while others bled red ink

Trucking companies turned in mixed first-quarter earnings results, with some reporting a significant boost in profits while others bled red ink. Even the companies that reported a more profitable quarter noted challenging freight conditions.

Swift Transportation took a big hit as its profit dropped 74% to $10.0 million compared to the first quarter last year as revenues slid 4.6% to $727 million. The company offered few details as it is being taken private since it agreed to be acquired by Jerry Moyes in January.

Arkansas Best Corp. (ABF)logged a 17% decline in net income to $4.8 million for the quarter as revenues slid less than 0.6% to $423 million. The company noted that tonnage has declined in the first quarter—a trend that started since October.

In spite of this, ABF managed to keep its rates steady, as total billed revenue per hundredweight increased 4% over the same quarter last year.

“Considering the challenging freight demand that exists today, ABF has achieved acceptable price increases throughout its broad base of accounts,” ABF president & CEO Robert Davidson said. “ABF continues to maintain its traditional pricing emphasis on individual account profitability.”

U.S. Xpress Enterprises swung a loss of $2.6 million compared to earning $734,000 in the same quarter last year. It was hurt by a soft truckload market. Its revenue increased 20% to $361 million, thanks to the company’s increasing its ownership of Arnold Transportation and Total Transportation in the same quarter last year.

The company said its operating results were profitable for its truckload segment in March, but incurred losses in January and February.

“The quarter was adversely affected by lower-than-expected freight demand, severe winter weather in key high-traffic markets that hampered tractor utilization, and rising fuel prices in the second half of the quarter, stated Patrick Quinn, co-chairman of U.S. Xpress.

Saia Inc. reported earnings were up 27% to $3.02 million compared to the same quarter last year on a 13% revenue boost to $231 million.

The increase in revenue was thanks to its acquisition of The Connection Co. and Madison Freight Systems, which boosted Saia’s direct delivery services in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. The acquired companies had an operating ratio of over 100 for the quarter and Saia incurred $2.4 million in integration expenses.

“Considering the difficult economic environment and the severe weather during the quarter, I was relatively pleased with the results,” said Rick O’Dell, Saia president & CEO.

Heartland Express said its net income increased 14.3% to $22.6 million as revenue rose 6% to $143 million. Its operating ratio was a solid 78.2%.

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