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U.S. Xpress Enterprises reported revenue growth but a decline in earnings for the first quarter of 2022.
The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based truckload carrier on May 5 posted a net loss of $8.97 million, or negative 17 cents a diluted share, for the three months ending March 31. That compared with net income of $2.66 million, or 4 cents a share, the previous year. Total operating revenue increased by 14.7% to $517.2 million compared with $450.8 million in Q1 2021.
The results missed expectations from investment analysts on Wall Street, who had been looking for a loss of 3 cents per share and quarterly revenue of $521.96 million, according to Zacks Consensus Estimate.
(Greg McQuagge by U.S. Xpress Enterprises)
The U.S. Xpress truckload segment reported Q1 revenue rose 10.3% to $370.4 million compared with $335.8 million last year. The increase in segment revenue was due in part to a 17.4% increase in average revenue per mile combined with an increase in average tractors in the quarter of 144. This was partially offset by an 8.5% decrease in revenue miles per tractor.
The brokerage segment saw revenue increase 14.8% to $93.9 million from $81.8 million during the prior-year quarter. Operating loss for the segment was $500,000 compared to operating income of $1.3 million last year. The increase in revenue was driven by a 15% increase in revenue per load, which was partially offset by a 0.2% reduction in load count year-over-year.
“This segment produced a small operating loss in the quarter but was within our expectations of being approximately break-even,” CEO Eric Fuller said during a May 5 conference call with investors. “We continue to expect this segment to break even for the remainder of 2022.”
Variant, the motor carrier’s digitally dispatched and managed asset-based fleet platform, generated revenue of $83.5 million in the first quarter, an increase of 111.7% over $39.5 million a year ago. That result was lifted by a 97.4% increase in seated tractors and a 23% increase in average revenue per mile.
“I spent much of the first quarter in Atlanta with our Variant team reviewing the business and determining where we needed to focus our time, efforts and resources to turn the corner from the nimble startup to a sustainable growing business and ultimately improve the profitability of the division,” Fuller said.
U.S. Xpress has been steadily growing Variant’s fleet sizing since the division’s Q2 2020 launch. It exited Q1 with 1,691 tractors.
“Variant is the growth engine for our company and improving its financial results is critical to our long-term success,” Fuller said. “We continue to believe there is a large customer need for one-way freight movement and that we can implement technology to improve capacity, cost and service levels for our customers while at the same time improving the experience for our professional drivers.”
Wolfe Research said in a report that the company experienced its second consecutive EPS loss despite the strong truckload pricing environment. The capital markets research firm noted that while U.S. Xpress’ truckload pricing rose 17% year-over-year, utilization declined 12% over the span.
“While USX has materially grown its Variant fleet, it’s completely missed the cycle from an earnings standpoint,” Wolfe Research analyst Scott Group said in the report. “And now comes the hard part: trying to improve profitability in a softening market. USX is now trading at tangible book value, so it’s tough to see much absolute downside from here. That said, balance sheet leverage continues to rise and we expect that USX will burn cash again this year.”
U.S. Xpress ranks No. 21 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America and No. 55 on the TT Top 100 list of the largest logistics companies in North America.
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