Arkansas Best Swings to 1Q Loss, Has Cut 625 Workers Since End of 2008

Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith said Wednesday that it had swung to a first-quarter loss and was continuing to cut costs, including reducing its workforce by more than 600 since the end of 2008 and cutting the size of its tractor-trailer fleet.

The company a reported first-quarter net loss of $18.2 million, or 73 cents per share, compared to net income of $8.5 million, or 34 per share, during the same quarter last year. It said revenue fell to $339.7 million from $447.5 million during the same quarter last year.

"Our first-quarter results continue to be hurt by the poor economy and the resulting decline in profitable business," Robert A. Davidson, the company's president and CEO, said in a news release. "ABF's first-quarter results reflect significantly lower freight levels, a very competitive industry pricing environment and our efforts to maintain a high level of customer service."

The company said it has continued to take steps to improve long-term profitability, including reducing its employee count by 625 workers since the end of 2008. Including that latest reduction, the company said it has cut it workforce by 23 percent since the fourth quarter of 2006, when the company first experienced "dramatic declines" in business.

The company has also reduced the size of its fleet, cutting 326 tractors and 448 trailers since the end of 2008. Those additional cuts have left the size of its tractor fleet down 20 percent and its trailer fleet down 11 percent since the fourth quarter of 2006.

In its news release, Arkansas Best said that despite its cost reduction, it remains unable to increase base rates to cover other cost increases. But it said it's solid financial position is a plus.

"Our solid financial position, with an April 15 cash and short-term investment balance of $209 million and minimal debt, continues to provide security and allows a long-term focus during this difficult time," Davidson said. "Even in this challenging environment, we remain committed to the organic development of our RPM regional freight initiative that offers significant growth opportunities in an important portion of the LTL market."