J.B. Hunt, Swift Transportation, Marten Transport, Werner Enterprises, and Heartland Express reported strong results for the first quarter of 2011, despite increased fuel prices and a sluggish economy. USA Trucks, however, experienced a 1Q loss due to an increase in unmanned tractors.J.B. Hunt Transport Services
In the first quarter, J.B. Hunt, Lowell Ark., had a total operating revenue for the current quarter was $1.17 billion, compared with $1 billion for the first quarter 2011. Operating income for the current quarter totaled $117 million vs. $90 million for the first quarter 2011.
Three of the company's four segments - Intermodal, Truck, Dedicated and Integrated Capacity Services - saw increases. Intermodal, the company's largest segment (60%), posted an operating income of $79,430, up from $62,638 in 1Q 2011. The company's Truck segment experienced a 5% year-over-year decline in operating income.
Earnings per share for the quarter was 57 cents, up 43% year over year. J.B. Hunt's 2012, 2013, and 2014 EPS estimates increase from $2.50, $2.95, and $3.45 to $2.65, $3.10, and $3.60, respectively.
Swift Transportation, headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., reported 1Q operating revenue of $826.9 million, a 9% increase year over year. The company's net revenue increased 6.9% to $664.2.
The company realized adjusted diluted earnings per share of 14 cents for the first quarter ended compared to 6 cents per share in the same quarter of 2011.
Swift reduced its average operational truck count by 3.9% to 14,546 during 1Q 2012 compared to 15,137 during the fourth quarter of 2011. This was a planned reduction to coincide with the soft seasonal demand patterns it traditionally experiences in the first quarter. The reduction helped improve loaded utilization (loaded miles per truck per week) in its over-the-road linehaul service offering by 116 miles and deadhead percent for its over-the-road linehaul service offering by 40 basis points from the first quarter of 2011 to 2012.
Marten Transport, headquartered in Mondovi, Wis., reported a 33% increase in net income to $5.4 million, or 25 cents per diluted share, for the first quarter ended March 31. It was the company's eighth consecutive year-over-year increase in quarterly profitability.
Operating revenue, consisting of revenue from truckload and logistics operations, increased to $151.5 million in the first quarter of 2012 from $137.9 million in the 2011 quarter.
Fuel surcharge revenue increased to $28.8 million for the first quarter of 2012 from $25.4 million in the 2011 quarter, due to higher fuel prices.
The company increased its regional operations to 67.8% of our truckload fleet, as of March 31, from 57.1% from a year earlier. Regional operations contributed to a 4.5% increase in the average truckload revenue, net of fuel surcharges, per tractor per week, over last year's first quarter.
Werner Enterprises, Omaha, Neb., reported 30% earnings growth in first quarter 2012 compared to 1Q 2011, the ninth consecutive quarter the company attained year-over-year earnings growth in excess of 20%.
Pent-up freight demand from severe winter storms in the first five weeks of first quarter 2011 contributed to unusually strong customer demand for truck capacity in the latter part of first quarter 2011. This resulted in higher spot market rates and significant customer capacity charges for repositioning trucks and providing trucks above committed levels, both of which aided in improving revenue per total mile in first quarter 2011.
In the last half of 2011, Werner operated slightly below its fleet goal of 7,300 trucks due to the more challenging driver market, and it ended 2011 with 7,200 trucks. By the final week of 1Q 2012, it increased its truck count to the 7,300 level.
First quarter operating revenues for Heartland Express, North Liberty, Iowa., increased 5.6% to $134.8 million from $127.7 million in 1Q 2011. Net income was $16.6 million compared to $14.9 million in the 2011 period, an 11.5% increase.
Earnings per diluted share increased 18.8% to 19 cents from 16 cents reported in the first quarter of 2011. Fuel surcharge revenues for the quarter increased 15.9% to $28.0 million from $24.2 million in the first quarter of 2011.
Operating income increased $1.9 million or 8.7% from a year. This increase is attributed to improved utilization in the first quarter. Average miles per driver increased by 3.2% over 1Q 2011. Fuel expense increased $3.6 million or 9.1% during the quarter.
Recruiting and retaining drivers was a main focus for the company, which achieved fleet growth in the first quarter for the first time in the past five quarters.
USA Truck, based out of Van Buren, Ark., lost $4.9 million or 49 cents a share in 1Q 2012. A year ago, the company reported a loss of $2.7 million, or 26 cents a share.
The company's strategic capacity solutions unit did post growth in operating income of 15.8% to $1.5 million year-over-year.
Although the delivery of new, fuel-efficient tractors during 2011 contributed to a year-over-year improvement in miles per gallon for the company, fuel price increases combined with higher empty miles led to an increase in its net fuel cost per mile.
USA Truck's unmanned tractor count rose sharply in February and March. Prior to that, it had reduced unmanned tractors from a peak of 230 to about 100 in January. A combination of network changes, less than optimal velocity, and seasonal job alternatives caused an increase in unmanned tractors back to 200 during March.
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