Trucking's 4Q predictions look positive

Many of the nation's major trucking companies are expected to post higher fourth-quarter 2002 profits, benefiting from the recovering economy and industry consolidation. According to a report by Dow Jones, the quarter looks particularly promising for LTL carriers, in part to the fall of Consolidated Freightways Corp., which shut its doors in September. The report said truckload carriers might have potentially positive earnings as well, thanks to strong earnings reported by large retailers such as Wal-Mart and due to the October reopening of the West Coast ports. Carriers including Swift Transportation Co. and Knight Transportation Inc. are expected to deliver strong results as they make up for business lost during the 10-day port shutdown by hauling expedited freight at premium rates. However, analysts said disappointing holiday sales would likely hurt carriers relying on the retail sector in the first-quarter '03 by discouraging stores from restocking their shelves. Also, Teamster contracts at Yellow Corp., Roadway Corp. and Arkansas Best Corp. will be up for renewal in April, and analysts said their failure to reach agreement in the weeks ahead could scare away some customers.

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