Van Buren-based carrier USA Truck Inc. reported Thursday (May 7) a first-quarter loss of $2.55 million and revenue fell to $126.77 million as operational improvements were offset by pricing challenges and the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The loss per share of 30 cents beat estimates by 2 cents, based on a consensus of three analysts. The adjusted loss per share was 26 cents, compared to adjusted earnings per share of 24 cents in the same period in 2019.
The first-quarter loss compared to net income of $1.5 million, or 18 cents per share, in the same period in 2019. Revenue declined 5.4% in the first quarter, from $133.97 million in the same period in 2019.
Trucking operations had a loss of $1.7 million, reflecting an operating ratio of 101.8%, compared to operating income of $1.6 million and an operating ratio of 98.3% in the same period in 2019. Trucking operating revenue declined 1% to $93.99 million, from $94.9 million in the same period in 2019.
Revenue per truck per week declined 4.5%, or by $152, from the same period in 2019, but rose 1.9%, or by $60, from the fourth quarter of 2019. The rise could be attributed to an increased in loaded miles per available truck per week but was offset by a decline in base revenue per loaded mile.
Base revenue per loaded mile fell 7.1%, or by 15 cents, from the same period in 2019, and down 2.8%, or 6 cents, in the fourth quarter of 2019. The change could be attributed to freight volume that was secured in the spot market, which negatively affected revenue per mile.
In the logistics segment, operating loss was $624,000, reflecting a 101.7% operating ratio, compared to operating income of $2.3 million and an operating ratio of 94.4% in the same period in 2019. Revenue declined 13.6% to $35.82 million, from $41.44 million. Gross margin fell 740 basis points to 11.1%, compared to 18.5% in the same period in 2019. The margin fell 40 basis points, from 11.5% in the fourth quarter of 2019. Revenue per load fell 12.3%, or by $184, in the first quarter, from the same period in 2019. Load count fell 1.5%, or by 400 loads, from the same period in 2019, but was up 5.4%, or by 1,400 loads, from the fourth quarter of 2019.
“During the first quarter, many of our operational initiatives took hold as loaded miles per available truck increased, empty miles decreased and unseated truck count metrics improved,” President and CEO James Reed said. “We also made significant progress in our move to regionalization as we fully staffed our teams in the operating regions. USAT Logistics accelerated volume throughout and particularly late in the quarter which we expect will have meaningful flow-through in future periods.”
The company continued to provide “high quality service” amid the pandemic and pricing challenges, Reed said. It will remain focused on protecting the health and safety of its employees and customers while improving operations.
“We believe we are well positioned for the future with a dense basket of essential customers and freight that should sustain us through a variety of potential business cycles,” Reed added.
The trucking segment had 1,871 trucks in the first quarter, up 5.9% from the same period in 2019 and a 3.1% increase from the fourth quarter of 2019.
Shares of USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK) were trading Friday at $4.74, up 39 cents or 8.9%. In the past 52 weeks, the stock has ranged between $14.29 and $2.36.