Heartland Express (Nasdaq: HTLD) reported earnings on Jan. 20. Here are the numbers you need to know.

The 10-second takeaway
For the quarter ended Dec. 31 (Q4), Heartland Express missed slightly on revenue and beat expectations on earnings per share.

Compared to the prior-year quarter, revenue increased slightly, and earnings per share improved significantly.

Gross margins increased, operating margins shrank, and net margins grew.

Revenue details
Heartland Express booked revenue of $131 million. The 11 analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ anticipated sales of $133 million. Sales were 1.5% higher than the prior-year quarter's $129 million.

My

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Dollar amounts in millions.

EPS details
EPS came in at $0.20. The 15 earnings estimates compiled by S&P Capital IQ predicted $0.18 per share. GAAP EPS of $0.20 for Q4 were 18% higher than the prior-year quarter's $0.17 per share.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Figures may be non-GAAP to maintain comparability with estimates.

Margin details
For the quarter, gross margin was 65.2%, 3,020 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was 13.0%, 380 basis points worse than the prior-year quarter. Net margin was 13.0%, 110 basis points better than the prior-year quarter.

Looking ahead
Next quarter's average estimate for revenue is $130 million. On the bottom line, the average EPS estimate is $0.17.

Next year's average estimate for revenue is $549 million. The average EPS estimate is $0.77.

Investor sentiment
The stock has a two-star rating (out of five) at Motley Fool CAPS, with 78 members out of 88 rating the stock outperform, and 10 members rating it underperform. Among 32 CAPS All-Star picks (recommendations by the highest-ranked CAPS members), 27 give Heartland Express a green thumbs-up, and five give it a red thumbs-down.

Of Wall Street recommendations tracked by S&P Capital IQ, the average opinion on Heartland Express is hold, with an average price target of $15.05.

Over the decades, small-cap stocks like Heartland Express have provided market-beating returns, provided they're value-priced and have solid businesses. Read about a pair of companies with a lock on their markets in our latest free report: "Too Small to Fail: Two Small Caps the Government Won't Let Go Broke." Click here for instant access to this free report.

Seth Jayson had no position in any company mentioned here at the time of publication. You can view his stock holdings here. He is co-advisor of Motley Fool Hidden Gems, which provides new small-cap ideas every month, backed by a real-money portfolio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Heartland Express. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.