Heartland Express reported first-quarter net income of $13.4 million, or 16 cents earnings per share. In comparison, first-quarter 2017 net income was $14 million, or 17 cents per share. Analysts had predicted earnings per share of 11 cents.
Operating revenue rose nearly 21%, to $156.7 million from $129.9 million. Revenue was bolstered in the quarter by higher miles driven after the acquisition of Interstate Distributor Co. last July, along with a rise in fuel surcharge revenue to $21.5 million, compared with about $15 million a year ago.
Operating income declined by $6.4 million due to lower gains on the sale of equipment and costs associated with the Interstate purchase.
The operating ratio in the quarter was 91.7% compared with 85.1% a year ago.
Heartland Express CEO Michael Gerdin said the results were the company’s best since the IDC purchase. “March was our strongest month of the quarter where we delivered the lowest operating ratio in any single month since the acquisition,” Gerdin said.
The company said its earnings also benefited about 2 cents per share from the favorable tax impact related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 enacted in December.
Heartland paid $113 million for Interstate, a Tacoma, Wash.-based truckload carrier with 1,375 company-owned tractors. But the acquisition was troubled, and Heartland ended Interstate services related to intermodal, brokerage and contract carriers. It also eliminated the overuse of brokers and third-party logistics customers.
Heartland reported an $11 million drop in operating income in fourth-quarter 2017 due to the negative impact of the Interstate consolidation.
Heartland ranks No. 52 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.