by Kate Knable
Posted 3/26/2012 12:00 am
Updated 2 years ago
Starting in 2009, USA Truck of Van Buren has seen net income losses, dimming the gleam created by a profitable 2008, Cliff Beckham’s first full year as chief executive officer.
When Beckham became CEO of the company in August 2007, Robert Powell, USA Truck’s board chairman, described him as having “energy and vision” and as “squarely focused on building shareholder value, and he understands that motivated employees and satisfied customers are critical to achieving our goals.”
Beckham did see prompt results as CEO, but USA Truck experienced growing profitability only one year.
In fact, the company has struggled every year since that $3.14 million profit in 2008, and 2011 was the company’s worst yet under Beckham. The now 26-year-old company reported a net loss of $10.8 million last year.
Beckham has for several years acknowledged the troubling effects of the Great Recession.
“The lack of freight demand has created excess tractor capacity industry wide,” he said in a 2009 press release.
In a Jan. 28, 2010, press release, he expressed some optimism.
“We believe industry conditions have bottomed,” he said. “We anticipate our first quarter results will be similar to our recent quarters and there will likely be sequential downward pressure on industry pricing as lower priced third and fourth quarter bids take effect. However, we also believe the imbalance between industry tractor capacity and freight demand will gradually improve throughout 2010 as businesses begin restocking inventories and as unsustainably low freight pricing and rising fuel prices begin thinning industry capacity.”
But USA Truck’s financials continued to disappoint in 2011, Beckham noted in a quarterly report earlier this year.
Among USA Truck’s 2011 troubles were “significant difficulties in implementing a new enterprise management software system. These difficulties caused a lack of visibility of freight in our system and numerous customer service disruptions,” Beckham stated. “The service failures and lack of confidence in booking freight caused us to lose a percentage of our loads with many customers, often the most operationally demanding, highest paying loads.”
Beckham, 40, is a Fort Smith native. He graduated from Arkansas State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. The same year he graduated from college, he began his career with USA Truck as a staff accountant. Beckham was recognized in 2007 on Arkansas Business’ annual “40 Under 40” list of young business leaders.
In 2010, his base salary was $255,456 and his total compensation was $293,770. Beckham’s nearly 65,000 shares in USA Truck were valued at about $550,000 this month.
Last fall, Celadon Trucking of Indianapolis acquired 658,000 shares of USA Truck stock and expressed an interest in acquiring the entire company. The unsolicited offer was rebuffed, and Celadon soon sold all of its USA Truck stock.
“Their brief ownership of 6.3 percent of our stock was a distraction for our management team and a source of anxiety for our team members,” Beckham told The City Wire, an online news service in Fort Smith. “We have work to do to return USA Truck to profitability, and this development will help us play a more aggressive style of offense in pursuit of that profitability.”