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January 29, 2016 9:00 AM, EST
Werner Raises Fourth-Quarter Profit; Landstar Earnings Drop Slightly
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Werner Enterprises Inc., which ranks No. 16 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers, raised fourth-quarter net income 12% to $36.6 million, or 51 cents per share, and No. 10 Landstar System earnings dipped 2% to $37.9 million, or 88 cents.

Werner’s revenue fell 4% to $528.8 million. In the year-earlier period, net income was $32.7 million, or 45 cents and revenue totaled $553.2 million. Profits improved atWerner’s truckload and non-asset units. The larger truckload unit’s revenue fell 5% to $419.4 million, excluding fuel-surcharge factors and rose 4% excluding the effect of those fees. Werner’s fleet grew by 6% after what the company termed an “ongoing and intense” to improve recruitment and retention.

At Landstar, based in Jacksonville, Florida, revenue fell 2% to $848.6 million. The fourth-quarter 2014 net income was $38.6 million, or 86 cents. Per-share amounts were affected by stock repurchases. Revenue declined at van and flatbed services that accounted for 93% of revenue. However, total loads carried by truck rose 7%.

Those announcements followed a series of truckload carrier reports earlier this week, which mostly showed a decline in earnings from the fourth quarter of 2014 that produced record results in the sector.

Both companies noted a softening of freight markets in the early weeks of 2016.

“Our freight demand in fourth-quarter 2015 was less robust than the strong fourth quarter of 2014.” Werner’s statement said. "However, it was consistent with our average freight demand in the fourth quarters of 2013, 2012 and 2011. Demand was less than expected in the first half of fourth quarter 2015, picked up significant strength in latter November and early December and then tapered to seasonally solid freight levels for the remainder of the year.”

“Given the backdrop of a low-growth macroenvironment and very difficult year-over-year comparisons, I am very pleased with our 2015 fourth-quarter operating performance,” Landstar CEO Jim Gattoni said. “Truck revenue per load in the 2015 fourth quarter was 9% lower as compared to the 2014 fourth quarter, mostly due to the impact of lower diesel fuel costs on loads hauled via truck brokerage carriers, the difficult comparison to record truck revenue per load experienced in the 2014 fourth quarter and a somewhat softer freight environment.”

Landstar also said a 12% rise in flatbed shipments during the fourth quarter was tied to a single automotive shipper whose first-quarter volume will be “insignificant.”