Frozen Food Express records higher 1Q loss

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Frozen Food Express Industries Inc. on Wednesday, April 27, announced its financial and operating results for the quarter ended March 31:
• Total operating revenue increased $6.3 million to $92.1 million in the first quarter of 2011 compared to $85.8 million in the same period of 2010;
• Total operating revenue, net of fuel surcharges, increased slightly to $73.4 million compared to $73.3 million; and
• Favorable pricing and improving demand were offset by unusually severe weather and increased fuel costs, resulting in a $7.9 million loss compared to a $3.7 million loss.

“Despite severe weather that curtailed many customer operations in January and February, truckload revenue during the first quarter of 2011 was relatively flat in comparison with the same period a year ago,” said Russell Stubbs, president and chief executive officer of Dallas-based Frozen Food Express. “Continued capacity constraint in the truckload sector provided pricing strength in this segment that was able to offset the 5.7 percent decline in loaded miles that was influenced by the bad weather.”

Stubbs said demand for the company’s less-than-truckload services continued to improve during the first quarter with a 6.3 percent increase in tonnage. “This more than offset competitive pricing pressures that this segment continues to face, and resulted in a 3.7 percent increase in sales from this segment,” he said. “This growth, year over year, was remarkable considering our major less-than-truckload markets of Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Chicago and the Northeast, served by our Burlington, New Jersey facility, lost numerous revenue days in January and February due to heavy winter storms.”

Stubbs said a shortage of qualified drivers in the market continues to challenge the industry. “We opened the FFE Driver Academy during the first quarter, which has been a cost-effective way to attract and retain qualified drivers,” he said. “Pricing strength in our truckload segment, improving demand and fuel surcharges were not enough to offset the significant increase in diesel fuel costs and the severe weather conditions, which resulted in disappointing results for the first quarter of 2011.”

Stubbs said, however, that the company experienced improvement in financial performance during March, as weather patterns normalized and demand and yield continued to improve. “Combined with our continued emphasis on a strong service offering, strength in pricing in the truckload market and solid LTL growth, we believe we will see improved results in the coming quarters,” he said.