Forward Air Reports Revenue and Earnings Decline for Q1

Total Revenue Decreases 8.5% to $427.1 Million
Forward Air truck
John Sommers II for Transport Topics

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Forward Air Corp. experienced a year-over-year decline in revenue and earnings during the first quarter of 2023, the company reported May 1.

The Greeneville, Tenn.-based ground transportation and logistics services company posted net income of $36.4 million, or $1.37 a diluted share, for the three months ending March 31. That compared with $42.7 million, $1.57, during the same time the previous year. The total revenue decreased by 8.5% to $427.1 million from $467 million.

“If you remember on the last call, we reviewed an earnings bridge, an EPS bridge, where we had revenue initiatives and cost containment initiatives,” Forward Air CEO Tom Schmitt said during a conference call with investors May 2. “We believed based on our own expectations and our modeling, that the revenue and cost management initiatives would actually make up for the headwinds that we are facing, both on the sluggish economy front and fuel coming down.”

Schmitt showed how that outlook didn’t quite come to pass as expected. He pointed to the expected decline of 5% in less-than-truckload tonnage, which ended up being worse for most of the quarter. He also noted that pieces per shipment have remained suppressed, being 16% lower year-over-year. He noted that is an issue of fewer and lighter shipments. 

Tom Schmitt


“Our drive to be the best in high-value LTL still holds, and that is true,” Schmitt said. “Our Grow Forward program is actually fundamentally working. This program, let me just remind you, is high-value freight, priced appropriately, operated with precision execution and made accessible to an increasing group of customers.”

The Grow Forward initiative is focused on expanding the high-value freight offerings to a larger customer base through an efficient operating network and strategic pricing discipline. That includes ongoing efforts to build out the terminal footprint both organically and inorganically. Schmitt noted that weight per piece related to this initiative is up year-over-year. 

“So, Grow Forward is actually fundamentally working,” Schmitt said. “It’s hard to fully appreciate a Grow Forward strategy that is working when we have a de facto miss for the quarter and we’re guiding down for the year. And still everything our remarkable teammates and independent contractors are doing tells me that when shipment count and size starts normalizing, we can expect to deeply benefit from it. Some this year and way more beyond.”
Schmitt expects the freight environment will be more challenging than initially anticipated even with some early signs of a recovery. This outlook led to a downward revision for targeted outcomes for the year. The company is now targeting net income per diluted share of $6.20 to $6.60 for the full year 2023. 

The results were mixed when it came to expectations by investment analysts on Wall Street, which had been looking for $1.31 per share and quarterly revenue of $459.03 million, according to Zacks Consensus Estimate.


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The expedited freight segment revenue for Q1 decreased 10% to $338.9 million from $376.6 million compared with the same time last year. Income from operations decreased 30.8% to $33 million from $47.7 million. The total shipments decreased 8.4% to 817,000 from 892,000. Revenue per shipment decreased 2.8% to $256.89 from $264.17. The segment includes network, truckload and final-mile operations.

  • Network revenue decreased 11.9% to $205.9 million from $233.7 million.
  • Truckload revenue decreased 25.3% to $41.7 million from $55.9 million.
  • Final-mile revenue increased 5.5% to $69.4 million from $65.8 million.

The intermodal segment revenue decreased 2.5% to $88.2 million from $90.4 million. Income from operations increased 0.5% to $11.2 million from 11.1 million. Drayage shipments decreased 17.9% to 72,465 from 88,312. But revenue per shipment increased 23.6% to $1,100 from $890.

Forward Air ranks No. 27 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America and No. 1 on the Air/Expedited sector list.

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