Thanks largely to a jump in operating income from its logistics division, Van Buren-based USA Truck reported first quarter income of $1.107 million, much better than the $4.073 million loss in the same quarter of 2017.
Earnings per share of 14 cents beat the consensus estimate of 10 cents. The report was posted Thursday (April 26) after the markets closed.
Total revenue during the quarter was $125.013 million, up 23% compared with the $101.67 million in the first quarter of 2017, and well ahead of the consensus estimate of $114.1 million.
The earnings report was largely what was expected by transportation analyst Brad Delco and associate Scott Schoenhaus, both of Little Rock-based Stephens Inc. In a note to investors, Delco and Schoenhaus predicted USA Truck would post positive first-quarter earnings for the third time in the past 11 years. They said the positive report would reflect the improved truckload market and the progress made by the new management team.
USA Truck President and CEO James Reed said the truckload carrier and logistics company can do better.
“While we benefited in the quarter from a tightening capacity environment and strong underlying economic drivers, we also experienced unusually challenging weather, an increasingly difficult driver recruiting environment, rising fuel prices, and correspondingly tight asset light capacity,” Reed noted in the earnings report. “We continued to deliver improved operational and financial results throughout the quarter, and believe the progress in our rate, revenue, and profit measures has outpaced market forces. This is a testament to our team’s commitment to become one of the best performing companies in our sector. While we are pleased with our team’s progress, we still feel that we have a long way to go.”
Trucking revenue was $78.7 million in the quarter, up 12% compared to the first quarter of 2017, and driven largely by a 15.5% increase in base revenue per loaded mile. However, the segment posted a $464,000 operating loss in the quarter. The operating loss for the segment was $7.128 million in the first quarter of 2017.
An indication of the struggle for drivers is seen in the seated tractor count. The average seated tractor count for the first quarter of 2018 was 1,534, down 1.9% compared with the first quarter 2017 average of 1,563.
USAT Logistics posted operating revenue of $46.82 million, well ahead of the $31.39 million in the same quarter of 2017. Operating income in the segment was $2.856 million, also well ahead of the $729,000 gain in the first quarter of 2017.
First quarter results followed a year in which the company was able to end in the black. USA Truck reported 2017 net income of $7.497 million, or 93 cents per share, as opposed to a $7.699 million loss, or 90 cents per share loss, in 2016. For 2017, revenue rose 4.1% to $446.533 million.
Shares of USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK) closed Thursday at $24.47, down $1.07. In the past 52 weeks, the stock has ranged between $29.15 and $5.73. The Dow Jones Transportation Average ended the day down 0.9%.