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Heartland Express: ‘Volatile freight demand’ in H2 will exceed available capacity

Carrier beats Q2 expectations

Heartland Express said Monday demand has stepped down from record levels but remains higher than the available capacity it has.

“Freight demand in the second quarter of 2022 softened sequentially to the first quarter of 2022,” CEO Mike Gerdin stated in a news release. “While the current levels are down compared against the unprecedented levels experienced in the later months of 2021, we continue to have significantly more opportunities to haul freight than we are able to cover with our existing fleet and available drivers.”

The North Liberty, Iowa-based truckload carrier reported second-quarter earnings per share of 97 cents. However, the headline number included a $73.2 million gain on the sale of a terminal in California’s Inland Empire. Excluding the nonrecurring event, adjusted EPS came in at 29 cents per share, 4 cents ahead of the consensus estimate.

Table: Heartland’s key performance indicators

Heartland (NASDAQ: HTLD) reported a 22% year-over-year (y/y) increase in revenue to $188 million during the period, 12% higher excluding fuel surcharges. The company does not provide operating metrics for utilization and pricing in its quarterly reports.

The result included a contribution from Smith Transport, which Heartland acquired in June. The deal was immediately accretive to earnings. Smith recorded $200 million in gross revenue during 2021, operating a fleet of approximately 850 tractors and 2,000 dry van trailers.

After adjusting for fuel revenue and the property sale, Heartland recorded a 78.9% operating ratio, 80 basis points better y/y. As a percentage of revenue (excluding fuel), the salaries, wages and benefits, and depreciation and amortization expense lines were more than 300 bps lower y/y. The release also said previously acquired Millis Transfer recorded a sub-80% OR in the quarter. The original goal was for the entity to operate at an 85% OR within its first three years.  

Heartland ended the quarter with $172 million in cash and $46 million in debt and lease obligations following the acquisition.

“Given what we have experienced and based on feedback from our strong group of customers, we expect volatile freight demand throughout 2022 but at volumes that will continue to exceed our available capacity,” Gerdin said.

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The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes J.B. Hunt (No. 4), Heartland Express (No. 35) and Smith Transport (No. 95).

7 Comments

  1. Been here 8 years as of a week ago…wouldn’t go anywhere else. I know I could make more money somewhere else, but consistency and respect mean a lot to me and they have been top notch since I started. They do what they say they’re going to do. I’ve only had two dispatchers in my 8 years, which speaks to their turnover. I’m no paid schill…truck 1855. I get a new truck every 2.5 years and I’m home fri/sat/sun. Couldn’t be happier.

    1. The above looks like another attempt to whitewash an ABUSIVE, FAILING co. by someone in Heartland management, and they get more preposterous…home Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! Does this “great” co. also give you a chauffeur to do the driving?!
      Heartland sold a valuable terminal and bought Smith Transport in June so of course they showed increased revenues for qtr.2. Look back before that…for years they have had falling revenues (year over year), while other companies have shown healthy expansion. They can’t get drivers! …to fill their trucks. We are fighting back and spreading the word about this VICIOUS ABUSER of truckers. “The chickens have come home to roost for them.” If you abuse The American Trucker…there will be Consequences!!

  2. Is Heartland fooling anyone?! It’s well entrenched with drivers that they are the WORST co. to work for…VICIOUS AND BRUTAL ABUSERS. Buying a co. like Smith Transport is the only way they can get drivers. As those 850 truckers learn their ways, they will go through the substantial stress of changing jobs. No pain for Heartland, only gain. We feel many co.s take very inflated tax write-offs for expenses incurred with driver hiring and separation. We brought this to the attention of legislators a few years ago, to no avail. So Washington is enabling this VICIOUS co. As drivers leave, they have equipment to sell and increase profits. This has become their business plan.
    We have been warning drivers about them for 4 years in our newsletters.

    TR Sorvlet…Director
    OTR Truckers’ Guild

    1. Well said a very bad company. Some companies in California follow their model that is A B 5 is coming in . c T A and O T A membership in Canada is doing same leaving many sick disabled truck driver in gov or nonprofit shelters. The Mullen group is no better took gov wage support then record profit

    2. I’m a proud Heartland driver. I’ve been here for over 6 years now. Smith drivers are just that Smith drivers same with Millis. They are not Heartland drivers. They are staying separate from Heartland. Heartland takes really good care of us drivers especially with pay protection. It’s a great safety net for when us drivers have a bad week. Gone are the days of 200-300 paychecks because of low freight or bad weather. This is permanent too not like some companies where it lasts only for 6-8 weeks. Our equipment is new with very little breakdowns. I talk with fellow Heartland drivers and majority of them are very happy with Heartland. They treat us like professionals with no micromanagement. I have 25 years driving experience currently and I’m only 46. I plan on retiring here.

    3. You got that right brother.terrible outfit…Swift will be the only co left standing when it’s all over.they are the largest in the world and have the $ to take a beating.mark my words…….

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Todd Maiden

Based in Richmond, VA, Todd is the finance editor at FreightWaves. Prior to joining FreightWaves, he covered the TLs, LTLs, railroads and brokers for RBC Capital Markets and BB&T Capital Markets. Todd began his career in banking and finance before moving over to transportation equity research where he provided stock recommendations for publicly traded transportation companies.