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TravelCenters posts first-quarter loss despite rising fuel volumes, revenues

Fuel volumes increased and non-fuel revenues increased in the first quarter at TravelCenters of America (NASDAQ: TA) locations, although the company still posted a net loss of $12.7 million, about $2.7 million more than the first quarter of 2018.

The net loss, though, was less than the first quarter of 2018 after removing the effects of the one-time items included in each period’s GAAP results, the company said. Adjusted EBITDA for 2019 of $11.4 million is an improvement of $14.3 million over the 2018 first quarter, the company said.

TA posted an earnings per share (EPS) loss of $0.36, versus a $0.55 EPS loss a year ago.

“We believe our operating results for the first quarter of 2019 demonstrated that the business initiatives and plans we outlined earlier this year are continuing to succeed,” CEO Andrew Rebholz said. “During the 2019 first quarter both fuel sales volume and non-fuel revenues showed solid growth, improving by 3.0 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively, in total and by 2.0 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively, on a same site basis as compared to the prior year quarter. These improvements were aided by our introduction of our revamped UltraONE 2.0 loyalty program that customers are embracing. Designed to incentivize and reward customers for their loyalty while providing the TA full-service array of redemption offers to suit customers’ varying needs, this program attracted approximately 30,000 new and reactivated members in the first quarter.”

Rebholz said the company kept “site-level operating expenses in line with our non-fuel revenue increases, experiencing only a slight 20 basis point increase in the ratio of those expenses to non-fuel revenues that is due in part to increased staffing in advance of increased business in our truck service programs.”

Fuel volume increased by 13.7 million gallons, or 3 percent, in the quarter, but fuel revenues dropped 0.3 percent due to lower market prices. That drove down fuel gross margin $8.2 million, or 9.8 percent, in the quarter compared to the first quarter of 2018. Margin was impacted by a $23.3 million benefit recognized in the first quarter of 2018 in connection with the February 2018 reinstatement for 2017 of the federal biodiesel blenders’ tax credit that did not recur in the first quarter of 2019.

TA’s non-fuel business revenues increased 4 percent, rising $17 million, compared to the first quarter of 2018. Non-fuel gross margin increased by $10.1 million, or 3.9 percent, in the first quarter of 2019 as compared to the first quarter of 2018.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.

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