Improved profit margins produced 12% higher fourth-quarter earnings at broker C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. and logistics company Hub Group, where net income rose 37%.
However, ArcBest Corp. net income declined more than 50% in the period as less-than-truckload results were hurt by a weaker economy, and profits fell 2% at Roadrunner Transportation Systems.
C.H. Robinson, the No. 4 company on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest logistics companies in North America, increased net income to $126.6 million, or 88 cents per share, as profits from truckload and less-than-truckload brokerage improved. ArcBest, No. 12 on TT’s Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers, reported net income of $5 million, or 19 cents, down from $14.5 million, or 53 cents.
Minneapolis-based C.H. Robinson improved net revenue, the amount left after paying transport costs, by 13% in truckload, the largest line of business, and 41% in the LTL brokerage segment. Revenue fell 4% to $3.21 billion.
Truckload, accounting for more than 60% of net revenue, was helped by a 5% decline of trucking costs that was greater than the 3% lower rates paid by shippers for the quarter. Net revenue at Robinson declined in the smaller intermodal, air, ocean and customs units that account for less than 20% of transport net revenue.
Hub Group based in Oak Brook, Illinois, reported that profit margins improved at both the larger Hub unit and the smaller Mode unit to 13% from less than 10%. Operating income rose nearly 50% at the Hub unit and more than 20% for the Mode business. Revenue for the company was 3% lower at $890.3 million.
Revenue rose 6% for truck brokerage within the larger Hub unit but fell for intermodal and logistics activities. Mode revenue climbed 2%.
At ArcBest, based in Fort Smith Arkansas, earnings were affected by one-time tax and other items. Excluding those items, fourth-quarter net income was $5.5 million, down from $11.9 million.
The LTL sector at ABF Freight included a 5% drop in revenue to $461.5 million, and tonnage per day was down 4.9%, leaving profit before interest and taxes nearly 50% lower at $7.7 million.
At the logistics business, revenue rose 6% to $198.3 million, or 30% of total corporate revenue of $648.1 million, a decline of 2%. The logistics unit profit before interest and taxes fell about 35% to $3.5 million.
Roadrunner, based in Cudahy, Wisconsin, reported a 7.8% drop in revenue to $490.9 million. Its truckload unit improved profit before interest and taxes by about 15%, but LTL and global logistics results worsened.
In a preliminary announcement, Universal Truckload Services Inc., based in Warren, Michigan, said that fourth-quarter earnings would be 32 cents to 33 cents per share, or about $9.5 million, which is approximately 10% below the 2014 period.
Universal, which noted that the statistics are subject to adjustment before the Feb. 25 earnings release, cited weaker truckload demand. Revenue is expected to trail last year for the quarter and the year by about 5%.