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Saia Inc. reported large gains in profit and revenue during the first quarter as it overcame weather challenges to take advantage of increasing freight demand.
The Johns Creek, Ga.-based less-than-truckload carrier said net income rose 32.7% to $37.3 million, or $1.40 a diluted share, for the three months ending March 31. That compared with $28.1 million, $1.06 a diluted share, during the same period a year earlier.
Revenue increased 8.4% to $484.1 from $446.4 million.
“We opened 2021 with record results across the board,” Saia CEO Frederick Holzgrefe said during an April 28 conference call with investors and industry analysts.
The motor carrier’s Q1 revenue represented a record for any quarter in Saia’s history, he said. Saia also posted a 25.6% increase in operating income to $48.7 million, a Q1 record.
The company achieved the gains despite severe winter weather forcing 70 of its terminals to either close or limit operations for several days during the quarter, Holzgrefe said.
Saia’s financial gains are coming in part from an aggressive pricing strategy. It implemented a general rate increase of 5.9% in mid-January. But contracts renewed during the quarter achieved an average rate increase of 9%, Holzgrefe said.
The motor carrier’s LTL revenue per hundredweight increased 5.6% for the quarter. Its LTL revenue per shipment rose 8.4% to $261.96
“Ultimately, this improvement in our revenue per shipment plays a key role in improving our margins and drove our record first-quarter financial performance,” Holzgrefe said.
Other financial metrics also improved. LTL shipments per workday increased 2.6%, while LTL tonnage per workday increased 5.3%. Saia’s operating ratio — the percentage expenses represent of revenue — fell to 89.9 from 91.3. That marked the third consecutive quarter where Saia achieved an operating ratio of less than 90, Holzgrefe said.
The company continues to grow its network. It opened a terminal during Q1 and has several others under development. A terminal in Atlanta is under construction and is expected to open later this year, it said.
The motor carrier also continues to reduce its debt, which stood at $66 million as of March 31. That is down from $235.8 million at the end of the 2020 first quarter.
Saia ended the quarter with $53 million in cash. It spent $25.4 million on capital expenditures in Q1 and plans to spend $275 million for the year.
Saia ranks No. 21 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America, and No. 9 on the LTL sector list.
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