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story.lead_photo.caption Graphs showing information about USA Truck's Third quarter

Van Buren-based USA Truck Inc. beat Wall Street this week, proving it could turn a profit after analysts projected the company would lose money in the third quarter.

In a conference call with investors Friday morning, chief executive James Reed praised his team of senior executives for the quarter's results. After a long stint of executive and other leadership hires, this was the first quarter all of the new leaders had to showcase their potential, Reed said.

"This journey is just beginning," he said. "But just being profitable does not constitute victory for us."

The company released its earnings results for the period ended Sept. 30 after markets closed Thursday, showing a net income of $409,000, up from a net loss of $734,000 during the same period last year. It was the first quarter since 2015 that the company posted a profit.

Earnings per share was 5 cents, a year-over-year improvement from a 9 cent per share loss for the same quarter a year ago. Earnings per share beat predictions of two analysts, who anticipated a loss of 3 cents per share.

Consolidated revenue for the quarter was $114.2 million. It was $105.4 million last year. While the company made more money this quarter, it reported about $7 million more in expenses, not including interest payments.

The company has the same amount of trucks in its fleet from last year. There were about 20 fewer drivers, meaning USA Truck's rigs are underutilized. Executives said the company will continue to spend money on driver recruitment efforts. Despite the driver shortage, the company made about 7.6 percent more per mile this quarter than last year. Net income for the freight segment, while still negative, rose about $311,000 year-over-year.

"They're doing more with less," said Bob Williams, senior vice president and managing director of Simmons First Investment Group Inc. in Little Rock. "The hurricanes hit them a little bit, so they had to move some trucks around. It's just a matter of trying to utilize your equipment as best as you can."

Independent drivers were in the spotlight during the conference call. Reed said these drivers make up about 17 percent of the company's fleet. During the quarter, the company suffered higher costs associated with independent drivers. Namely, two of its business partners, who sold the company automated dispatch and freight connection technology to make it easier for drivers to find loads, changed their prices, forcing USA Truck to adjust and spend more in this area.

Its logistics operations segment proved to be more positive. Year-over-year revenue in this area of the business spiked by more than $7 million from $32 million in 2016. The segment kept more, too. Compared with third-quarter 2016, the operating income rose by about $1.4 million.

Business on 11/04/2017

Print Headline: Trucker's fresh faces cited for 3Q pivot

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