What happened

Shares of Saia (SAIA -0.27%) were moving higher Friday after the less-than-truckload (LTL) transportation company posted better than expected bottom-line results for the first quarter. 

Though the company missed revenue estimates, its profits topped expectations. As of 1 p.m. ET, the stock was up 15.3%.

So what

In a difficult economic environment, Saia said that revenue was down 0.1% to $660.5 million, which missed analysts' consensus estimate of $667.2 million. Tonnage in the quarter fell 5.5%, but the company boosted its pricing by 5.8% to make up for it. Management said yield -- essentially pricing -- rose by 4.5%, excluding a fuel surcharge.

Operating income was down 4.2% to $99.1 million, and earnings per share fell from $2.98 to $2.85, but that beat analysts' estimate of $2.69.

"Despite the softer freight environment we are working through, we still had a constructive quarter in terms of our pricing discussions with customers and we posted a 4.5% increase in yield excluding fuel surcharge in the quarter," CEO Fritz Holzgrefe said. "Customer satisfaction continues to improve and our value proposition is enhanced as we expand our network footprint."

The company also said that it has opened four new terminals so far this year, including one in Atlanta just this week. Those expansions should help drive its growth over the long term.

Now what

Saia didn't offer guidance in the report, but investors seem to approve of how the company is managing through a difficult economy, given the earnings beat. 

Management also touted a "robust pipeline of real estate opportunities," and said it is stepping up capital expenditures this year to more than $400 million. That should help fuel long-term growth for the transportation company.