Large truckload fleets mostly saw profits dip in 2018 despite stronger revenues

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Updated Feb 8, 2019

Publicly traded truckload fleets in 2018 were able to capitalize on the strong rate environment in 2018, with nearly all of them reporting higher operating revenue for the year compared to 2017.

However, those stronger revenues in many cases yielded smaller profits than the year prior, with carriers spending more on salaries and wages and purchased transportation (contracting freight to other carriers). Expenditures on salaries likely were pay increases to drivers, while the increases in purchased transportation were likely done to help carriers keep up with the surge in freight demand in the first half of the year.

For instance, Covenant Transportation (No. 38 in the CCJ Top 250) spend $63 million more on salaries and wages in 2018 than it did in 2017, with nearly $40 million of that coming in the fourth quarter alone. The carrier reported a profit of $16 million for 2018’s fourth quarter and $49 million for 2017’s fourth quarter.

Likewise, J.B. Hunt’s (No. 4 in the CCJ Top 250) revenue grew $1.4 billion in 2018 from 2017, but its net income fell nearly $200 million. The company spent nearly $800 million more in 2018 on purchased transportation and more than $300 million more in 2018 on salaries and wages.

Werner spent nearly $100 million more in 2018 on salaries and wages and $80 million more on purchased transportation.

Nearly all of the carriers listed below experienced the same, with revenues soaring but profits being constrained by increased expenditures on salaries and on purchased transportation.

Covenant Transportation

Covenant Transportation Truck

Revenue

2018: $885.4 million
2017: $705 million

Income

2018: $42.5 million
2017: $55.4 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: $2.30
2017: $3.02

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Heartland Express

Heartland Express Semi-Truck

Revenue

2018: $610.8 million
2017: $607.3 million

Income

2018: $72.7 million
2017: $75.2 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: 88 cents
2017: 90

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J.B. Hunt

J.B. Hunt 18-Wheeler

Revenue

2018: $8.6 billion
2017: $7.2 billion

Income

2018: $489.6 million
2017: $686.3 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: $4.43
2017: $6.18

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Knight-Swift Transportation

Notes on Knight-Swift: The companies merged in September 2017, meaning there’s no full year to measure against. The 2017 figures used for comparison in Knight-Swift’s earnings report are for Knight only.

Knight-Swift Transportation Semi-Truck

Revenue

2018: $5.34 billion
2017: $2.43 billion

Income

2018: $419.3 million
2017: $484.3 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: $2.36
2017: $4.34

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Landstar Systems

Landstar Systems Truck and Trailer

Revenue

2018: $4.62 billion
2017: $3.65 billion

Income

2018: $255 million
2017: $177 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: $6.18
2017: $4.21

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Marten Transportation

Marten Truck and Trailer

Revenue

2018: $787.6 million
2017: $698.1 million

Income

2018: $55 million
2017: $90.3 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: $1
2017: $1.65

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P.A.M. Transportation

P.A.M. Commercial Truck and Trailer

Revenue

2018: $445.9 million
2017: $373.5 million

Income

2018: $24 million
2017: $39 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: $3.90
2017: $6.08

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Schneider

Schneider Truck

Revenue

2018: $4.98 billion
2017: $$4.38 billion

Income

2018: $268.9 million
2017: $390 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: $1.52
2017: 94 cents

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USA Truck

USA Truck

Revenue

2018: $534 million
2017: $446 million

Income

2018: $12.2 million
2017: $7.4 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: $1.49
2017: 93 cents

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Werner

Werner 18-Wheeler

 

Revenue

2018: $2.46 billion
2017: $2.12 billion

Income

2018: $168.1 million
2017: $202.9 million

Diluted earnings per share

2018: $2.33
2017: $2.80