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May 3, 2017 3:00 PM, EDT

Net Loss for USA Truck Accelerates in First Quarter

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The first-quarter net loss for USA Truck more than doubled and revenue fell, but the truckload carrier’s new CEO said he intends to return the troubled company to profitability by this year’s third quarter.

The Van Buren, Ark.-based company lost $4.89 million, or 61 cents a share, on revenue of $101.7 million. The Bloomberg News consensus estimate had predicted a loss of 15 cents.

During the 2016 first quarter the company lost $1.81 million, or 19 cents, on revenue of $110.6 million.

Operating ratio — expenses as a percentage of revenue — deteriorated to 110.1 at the truckload division from 105.8, year-over-year.

USA Truck ranks No. 53 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in the United States.

“Having now completed three months in the role as USA Truck’s CEO, I believe we are making important strides toward improving our trucking segment’s productivity and taking the right steps in building a lean and efficient company that can generate profits in the relative near-term and create sustainable value over time,” said James Reed in the company’s May 3 earnings statement.

Briefly USA’s chief financial officer before succeeding Randy Rogers on Jan. 30, Reed has rolled out a five-point plan to turn around the company: bring in a new leadership team, cut fixed costs, transform the trucking division, improve weekly revenue per truck and increase net revenue from the brokerage division.

The quarter just ended was the corporation’s fifth-straight loss. The company did earn a profit in every quarter of 2015.

Unlike the trucking division, which lost money, USAT Logistics did earn $729,000, but that was a substantial fall from the $2 million profit in the year-ago period.

Reed said in an earnings call that the company has been making sequential gains since the second-quarter of last year, especially in weekly revenue and miles driven per seated tractor. He also described a two-stage recovery process for the company, in getting pricing and performance first up to industry averages and then, through continued effort, beyond that.

Reed also said he expects his company will benefit from a much-discussed tightening in freight-hauling capacity. Truckload executives and analysts have been predicting that the December federal mandate on electronic logging devices for driver hours of service will reduce the supply drivers and drive up transportation prices.