Once again we see evidence that the trucking market's health may be largely a function of the quality of the particular trucking company reporting that day. To wit, both Old Dominion
In the case of Arkansas Best, revenue rose a bit more than 6% in the quarter. Shipping revenue (excluding fuel surcharges) rose slightly, helping to offset a very slight decline in overall shipped tonnage. Margins improved once again, and that single-digit revenue growth morphed into operating income growth of 13%. While net earnings are confused a bit because of a gain on sale, backing that out renders an approximately 13% increase in earnings per share.
Although this company does fine in less-than-truckload hauling (which refers to combining freight from multiple shippers in a single truckload), it was the truckload business, a comparatively smaller segment, which did particularly well this time around. Revenue was up more than 25% (versus less than 4% for less-than-truckload) as tonnage, shipments, and billed revenue per hundredweight (net of fuel surcharges) all grew by double-digit amounts. In what I consider a classic example of "making hay while the sun shines," management seems willing to continue to exploit growth opportunities in truckload services -- so long as they don't harm the company's core less-than-truckload operations.
This is a solid trucking company, as its strong profitability and annualized return on equity of more than 20% might suggest. What's more, the company buys its own shares and pays a decent little dividend as well. Aside from the usual boilerplate about the dangers of a slowing economy hurting shipping demand, this company looks like it's still in position to do well for itself.
For more big rig gigs:
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).