Higher fuel prices reduced the earnings per share of M.S. Carriers by 13 cents in the first quarter, the company says.

The Memphis-based carrier reported a 15 percent increase in operating revenues of $164.2 million, up from $142.8 million in the same period 1999. Operating income for the first
quarter of 2000 was $9.9 million, a 13 percent decrease from $11.3 million in the same period 1999. Net income was $4.6 million, a 20 percent decrease from $5.7 million in the first quarter 1999.
Mike Starnes, chairman and chief executive officer said the fuel price impact would have been higher if the company hadn't used hedging techniques and collected customer surcharges.
Poorer equipment utilization was also a concern. "Year-over-year, our equipment utilization, measured by miles per tractor per week, declined 10 percent in the first quarter," Starnes said. In December, the company announced a 14% increase in driver pay. Response has been positive and the fleet ended the quarter near normal staffing levels. "To fund this driver pay increase, we have been seeking a rate increase from our customers. By the end of April 2000, I believe the rate increases we have been able to secure will be sufficient to offset the costs of the pay increase," Starnes said.