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USA Truck sees smaller loss in first quarter

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published April 30, 2014 at 6:36 a.m.

USA Truck in the first quarter posted a smaller loss than a year earlier in what the company called strong progress in its bid to return to profitability.

The Van Buren-based trucking and transportation firm said its net loss for the quarter that ended March 31 was about $1.59 million, up nearly 36 percent from a loss of more than $2.47 million a year earlier. Diluted loss per share was 15 cents, compared with 24 cents in 2013's opening quarter.

The net loss would have been $1.4 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, if not for legal and defense costs tied to an unsolicited takeover attempt by Knight Transportation, the company said.

USA Truck said it marked the sixth consecutive quarter of "significantly improved" performance.

"Despite the most severe winter weather we have experienced in decades across our operating geography, we posted another quarter of strong year-over-year progress towards our operational improvement goals," President and CEO John Simone said in a statement. "Our business model proved resilient with our asset-light Strategic Capacity Solutions (SCS) business delivering record performance even as the harsh weather impeded our Trucking operations."

The company noted that base revenue increased 12.1 percent to $117.6 million; cash flow from operations was up 81.5 percent; and sequential debt was reduced $4.4 million. The trucker's Strategic Capacity Solutions segment accounted for nearly a third of the company's total consolidated base revenue and had an operating income of $5.1 million, which USA Truck said more than quadrupled from a year before.

Simone said the company's "turnaround plan" is working even as the industry as a whole faces a shortage of drivers.

"We have taken steps we believe will improve recruiting and retention over the course of the year and allow us to capitalize fully on the healthy demand and pricing environment in the truckload marketplace," Simone said. "Therefore, assuming our seated truck count recovers and our SCS business continues to perform well, we believe we still have the opportunity to achieve positive consolidated operating income and positive EPS for the full year 2014."

A conference call on the first-quarter results is scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday. It can be accessed by calling (800) 351-6807 or (334) 323-7224 and using access code 541247.

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