4Q reports spell good news

The most recent weekly roundup of quarterly earnings indicates that the trucking industry, from truckload to LTL to third-party logistics and trailer makers, is posting record earnings and in some cases continuing its trend toward consolidation.

Third-party logistics (3PL) provider C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. said that in the fourth quarter, net income jumped 50.8% to $58.1 compared with the same quarter in 2004.

"The increase in our truck transportation gross profits of 25.6% in the fourth quarter of 2005 was driven by volume growth in truckload and less-than-truckload transactions, offset by a slight decrease in gross profit margins," the company said in a statement. "Tight capacity created opportunities with new and existing customers."

For its intermodal business, C.H. Robinson noted gross profit margins increased 7.6%, driven by rate increases and selectively choosing more lucrative tasks. This was offset by a decrease in volume and "market conditions continued to drive business back to trucks in certain lanes," C.H. Robinson added.

Pacer International Inc., a non-asset North American 3PL and freight transportation provider, said 4Q net income increased 20% to $20.4 million compared to the same quarter of 2004, reflecting growth in both the wholesale and retail segments. "Income from operations for our retail segment more than doubled for the fourth quarter of 2005 compared to the like quarter of 2004 and is up 63.8% for the year," said Don Orris, Pacer chairman & CEO.

Toronto-based transportation and logistics firm Vitran Corporation Inc. announced record quarterly financial results in the 4Q with a net income of $5.0 million-a 14% increase over earnings in 4Q 2004. Over the past year Vitran closed its acquisition of Sierra West Express, giving it an LTL foothold in the Western U.S, and Chris Truck Line in the Southwest.

Dry van truckload service provider P.A.M. Transportation Services reported its net income for the quarter ending Dec. 31 more than doubled to $4.3 million, compared to $1.8 million in the same quarter in 2004.

"We had success in raising our rates by 14%...to an average rate of $1.35 during the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2005," said P.A.M. president Robert Weaver.

Trailer maker Wabash National Corp. announced 4Q net income for the quarter was $19.7 million-a 52% jump over $13.0 million posted for 4Q 2004. Wabash recently announced it is in discussions to acquire trailer maker Transcraft, adding that a deal could occur in 1Q 2006.

"Should negotiations be successfully completed, the acquisition of Transcraft would be consistent with Wabash's strategic objectives of profitably expanding our market presence while capitalizing on our core competencies," said William P. Greubel, Wabash CEO.

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