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USA Truck swings to solid fourth-quarter profit

Company posts best quarterly EPS numbers in its history

USA Truck swings into the black in fourth quarter (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Trucking and logistics provider USA Truck Inc. (NASDAQ:USAK) swung decisively to a fourth- quarter profit and posted the best quarterly earnings-per-share results in its 38-year history, the company said late Thursday.

USA Truck, based in Van Buren, Arkansas, reported adjusted net income of $6.2 million, or 70 cents per diluted share. By contrast, the company lost $4.5 million on an adjusted basis in the 2019 fourth quarter, equal to a loss of 52 cents per diluted share. 

The results handily beat analysts’ EPS estimates, which ranged between 36 and 42 cents depending on the source. Shares were up as much as 13% in after-hours trading. Shares rose about 4% during the regular session.

Fourth-quarter operating revenue from the trucking and logistics units rose by nearly $35 million year-on-year to $158.8 million. The combined figures back out more than $10 million in fuel surcharge revenue.

The trucking segment’s operating ratio— the measure of revenues to expenses — moved in a positive direction, falling to 93.9% from 102.9% a year ago.

For the year, the trucking unit posted base revenue–excluding fuel surcharges–of $349.2 million, up from $328 million in the 2019 quarter. Adjusted operating income rose sharply to $11 million from $1.4 million. The strong fourth-quarter operating ratio helped the unit reduce its full-year ratio to 97.6% from 100.1%.

The logistics segment, also powered by the strong fourth quarter, reported a nearly $48 million full-year revenue gain to $191.9 million. Adjusted operating income rose nearly 30% to $3.57 million, the company said.

President and CEO James Reed said that both units benefited in the fourth quarter from a firm pricing environment. Reed cited strong seasonal demand, along with continued capacity constraints and a surge in consumer purchasing as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country. Base revenue per loaded mile in the quarter rose 17.9% year-over-year and 10.6% sequentially as strong demand and tight supply led to higher realized rates, USA Truck said.

On the logistics side, revenue per load in the quarter rose 53.8%, while load count jumped 26.2%, the company said.

USA Truck did not include 2021 forecasts in Thursday’s statement. The company hosts a conference call with analysts on Friday.

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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.