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USA Truck, Inc. (NASDAQ: USAK) today announced financial and operating results for the quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2012.

Financial Results

Base revenue of $100.3 million for the quarter ended September 30, 2012, decreased 2.3% from $102.6 million for the same quarter of 2011.  We incurred a net loss of $6.1 million ($0.59 per share) for the quarter ended September 30, 2012, compared to a net loss of $4.3 million ($0.42 per share) for the same quarter of 2011.

Base revenue decreased 2.9% to $301.7 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2012, from $310.8 million for the same period of 2011.  We incurred a net loss of $14.4 million ($1.40 per share) for the nine months ended September 30, 2012, compared to a net loss of $6.4 million ($0.62 per share) for the same period of 2011.

Net loss for the third quarter of 2012 was impacted by the following items:  $0.11 per share relating to increases in accrued reserves for workers’ compensation and health claims incurred in prior periods and $0.03 per share relating to the write off of deferred debt issuance costs associated with our prior credit facility that was replaced during the quarter.

Operating Environment

Cliff Beckham, President and CEO, offered the following assessment of the operating environment during the quarter:  “Freight demand was relatively weak overall for a third quarter and we did not experience the level of increase in freight volumes during the quarter that we normally expect.  We attribute this to slower growth in the United States economy, a slight contraction in manufacturing activity, and one fewer business day than in the 2011 quarter.  In addition to tepid demand, fuel prices increased for much of the quarter negatively impacting our results both sequentially and year-over-year.  Shippers remain concerned about adequate truckload capacity over the medium to longer term, but the short-term environment was less supportive of rate increases than in recent quarters.  Drivers remain difficult to attract and retain, requiring increased expense and focus despite the somewhat slower demand environment.  In response to the more difficult environment, we maintained our fleet at 160 fewer trucks compared with the third quarter of 2011, increased the percentage of our business conducted through our SCS segment, refinanced into a more flexible credit facility, and concentrated on seating trucks and refining our freight network.”

Business Units Results and Operating Data

Mr. Beckham continued with the following comments concerning the Company’s business unit performance:  “Our SCS segment continued its strong performance, growing base revenue by 26.9% and operating income by 2.2%.  SCS revenues accounted for 23.3% of total base revenue during the quarter, and SCS has been consistently profitable with very little capital investment.  Gross margin, down 1.6 percentage points, was pressured by the lackluster demand environment.

“Our Intermodal operations decreased as planned, as we reduced the number of leased containers allocated to this unit.  We believe we are on schedule to recalibrate our intermodal model in 2013 to pave the way for future profitability.

“Our Truckload operations produced an operating ratio of 114.1%.  These results included approximately $2.3 million related to the items listed under Financial Results above. Excluding these items, our operating ratio would have been 110.8%, which was relatively consistent with our Truckload operating ratio for the third quarter of last year.

“From an operating perspective, per-truck productivity was approximately the same as in the 2011 quarter.  However, intra-quarter operations improved and remain at a higher level during October as a result of progress made since changing the leadership of our operations personnel in the second quarter of 2012.  The areas of focus during the third quarter included seating more trucks, improving miles per tractor, and improving freight mix.

“During the quarter, we engaged an experienced truckload executive to assist us in assessing and improving our operations activities.  We determined that the percentage of our business comprised of very short haul loads (under 300 miles) was too high, which was negatively impacting equipment utilization and the ability of drivers to earn adequate compensation. We also re-evaluated customer profitability on a lane-by-lane basis.  As a result of this re-evaluation, we accelerated the exit and replacement of specific lanes and loads that failed to meet our new criteria.  The timing was not optimal given the weak freight environment, but we believed the overall benefits to our drivers, customers, and future financial results justified the timeline.

More at USA Truck Announces Third Quarter Results – Sacramento Bee

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