Private Carriers See Better Days Ahead in Transportation

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, May. 23, 2011 12:00 am  

As noted a couple of weeks ago in the pages of Arkansas Business, trucking companies are seeing revenue rebounds, and that applies to private carriers as well.

(Click here for a list of the state's largest private companies in the transportation sector.)

CalArk International Inc., for example, reported a 4.1 percent increase in revenue during 2010 compared with 2009, from $115.5 million to $120.2 million. Rochelle Bartholomew Gorman, CEO of the Little Rock-based long-haul trucking company, said, "In fact, our growth in revenue and employment numbers are both up for 2011 more significantly than that. We're already, year to date, up 11.5 percent over last year."

She attributed the improvement to a healthier economy and said CalArk was "in a position to go ahead and take advantage of increased demand."

"Our niche in the transportation business is with companies that place a high value on timely service, good communication and reliability" rather than whatever is cheapest, Gorman said. "Our customers need and demand good service. So now that the economy is picking back up again, those kinds of shippers are busier and they're looking for our services."

She said the uptick appeared to be manifesting itself "for all customers in every industry in all regions of the country, which is great. And we're getting very positive predictions from our larger customers that their demands are going to be even higher in 2011."

Maverick USA Inc. of North Little Rock, a private entity that is parent to several transportation companies, reported revenue increasing 5 percent in 2010, to $200.1 million compared with $190.7 million in 2009.

Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of Maverick, while agreeing that "we're optimistic for trucking in general," sought to put the improvement in context. He noted that Maverick reported revenue of more than $300 million in 2008 ($304.5 million, to be precise).

In other words, Maverick's 2010 revenue, though better than in 2009, is still down 34 percent from 2008.

That pattern is true of CalArk, as well. That company reported 2008 revenue of $162.5 million. So even though 2010 was better than 2009, it was still 26 percent below the much cheerier 2008 figure.

"We had to significantly downsize in order to survive," Williams said of Maverick. "We sold 400 trucks out of 1,500 and so we went from 1,500 to 1,100. So, yes, we are building back. And that [2010] revenue increase was attributable to the fact that we were building back after we made that large cut and we are continuing to do that."

Asked how CalArk coped, Gorman said, "We went into the recession probably in a better position than some companies because we are always expecting business to be somewhat cyclical, and we try to be proactive in looking for better efficiencies all the time."



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