Truckload carrier Heartland Express, in the midst of a tractor and trailer upgrade that began in the third quarter last year, said it's prepared to downsize its fleet through attrition if freight demand gets worse.
Low demand was responsible for an 8.1 percent decline in profits for the year. The North Liberty, Iowa-based company, ranked 19 on Traffic World's list of top truckload operators, generated $70 million in net income on revenue of $626 million, which was up 5.7 percent. In the fourth quarter, a $6.1 million gain on disposal of equipment boosted net income 16.4 percent to $19.4 million on revenue that fell 7 percent to $142 million.
Heartland took delivery of 197 new International ProStar tractors and 248 new Wabash trailers in the third quarter of 2008, and 378 new tractors and 152 new trailers in the fourth quarter. It expects to buy approximately 1,025 new ProStar tractors in 2009.
However, "the first quarter (2009) is off to a dismal start," the company said in its earnings statement. "Freight volumes have continued to decline from those experienced in the fourth quarter. With the current economic environment we believe freight volumes are not likely to improve in the near term."