USA Truck Narrows Quarterly Loss, Beats Revenue Estimates

USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren posted another quarterly loss on Wednesday, but it was narrower than the trucking firm reported last year, and the company beat analysts' estimates for quarterly revenue.

The company (Nasdaq: USAK), which successfully beat back a hostile takeover attempt earlier this year, reported a first-quarter loss of $1.6 million, or 15 cents per share, down from a loss of $2.5 million, or 24 cents per share, during the same quarter last year.

The company also reported revenue of $145.5 million, up 10 percent from $132.2 million it reported last year and greater than analysts' prediction of $139.2 million

President and CEO John Simone said in a conference call the company’s trucking operations were hampered by a "brutal winter" and driver shortages, both of which have plagued the trucking industry nationwide. Simone said the problem of recruiting and retaining drivers led to an increase in unseated trucks from 4.1 percent to 8 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the same quarter in 2014.

Simone said USA Truck has a plan for handling the driver shortage problem but said he wouldn't discuss it on the conference call for competitive reasons. Simone estimated the obstacles caused by the weather cost the company about $2.5 million in the first quarter.

USA Truck’s Strategic Capacity Solutions division helped temper some of the shortfall by increasing income from $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2013 to $5.1 million this past quarter.

"Our asset-light Strategic Capacity Solutions rose to the challenge," Simone said. "SCS posted its strongest quarter in its history."

CFO Cliff Beckham said the USA Truck paid down another $4.4 million, the third consecutive quarter the company has paid down its debt. Beckham said the USA Truck has paid off about $21.5 million in debt in the past three quarters but added that he expects debt to rise in the second quarter as the company replaces trucks in its fleet.

USA Truck also reported spending $400,000 on legal expenses related to the hostile takeover bid by Knight Transportation of Phoenix this past fall. The two sides settled a lawsuit in February that halted Knight’s bid until at least September.

Simone said USA Truck’s turnaround plan is working but will take more time until it generates profitability. The company has posted five consecutive annual losses and for 2014 to reach the black, Simone said the last three quarters of the year will need to have better-than-planned performances to make up for the first quarter.

"Doing so will require us to make progress on our increased unseated truck count," Simone said.

Simone said the trucking operations have started strongly in the second quarter while SCS remains solid but not at its first-quarter levels.