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October 17, 2018 3:15 PM, EDT

Heartland Express Returns to Historical Levels of Profitability

Heartland Express Heartland Express Inc.

Heartland Express Inc. is getting back to its old self.

The North Liberty, Iowa-based truckload carrier has been battling to restore its historically rich profit margins after the acquisition of Interstate Distributor Co. in July 2017.

CEO Michael Gerdin said the results in the third quarter show that the company is close to regaining its status as one of the most profitable freight carriers in the United States.

Heartland earned $19.1 million, or 23 cents a share, on revenue of $151.3 million in the three months ended Sept. 30. That compares with net income of $7.9 million, or 9 cents a share, on revenue of $182.1 million in the same period a year ago. More importantly, the operating ratio, which is calculated by dividing total operating expenses by revenue and is the most common method of measuring profitability in trucking, dropped to 83.4 from 92.9 a year ago.

Gerdin

Gerdin

Gerdin said the operating ratio is at “historical and targeted levels” after getting hit with higher costs associated with the operations of IDC.

“We have integrated IDC into the Heartland platform and culture,” Gerdin explained, “focused on the most profitable customers and lanes, reduced our overall cost structure, significantly reduced the costs and operating limitations by ending many revenue equipment lease obligations, reduced the average age of our tractors and trailers and heightened the level of service and safety afforded our customers and drivers.”

Gerdin noted that the freight environment continues to be positive and the company is “well-positioned” for future periods.

For the first nine months of 2018, Heartland Express posted net income of $50.2 million, or 61 cents a share, on revenue of $463.8 million compared with net income of $36.6 million, or 44 cents a share, on revenue of $441.6 million in 2017.

Heartland Express ranks No. 53 on Transport Topics’ Top 100 list of largest for-hire carriers in North America.