Higher spot market and contract pricing and fewer empty miles boosted Werner Enterprises' net profit 34 percent in the fourth quarter to $24.1 million.
The truckload carrier squeezed more profit from its freight, driving its truckload operating ratio down to 90.4 percent. For the full year, its OR was 92.1 percent.
Trucking revenue, before fuel surcharges, was up 2.7 percent year-over-year at $327.7 million. Trucking sales declined slightly from the 2010 third quarter.
Werner's total operating revenue, including its logistics and brokerage business, climbed 5.4 percent year-over-year to $463.2 million in the quarter.
For the full year, Werner's revenue increased 9 percent to $1.8 billion. Much of that gain came from a 15 percent increase in non-trucking revenue.
The Omaha, Neb., company's net profit leaped 41 percent to $80 million in 2010, as freight volume surged and truck capacity tightened, pushing up rates.
Freight volume fluctuated in the fourth quarter, starting out soft in October and rising in mid-November and early December before ebbing in mid-month.
But the company increased average revenue per total mile 4.2 percent year-over-year. Werner could get a bigger boost in the first half of 2011.
"A significant amount of our business will become eligible for rate increases through contractual renewals or re-pricing opportunities," the company said.
"We expect 3 to 4 percent price growth, which could be conservative," said trucking analyst J. Douglas Woodrich of Wall Street investment firm Longbow Research.
Although it is replacing older tractors, Werner isn't expanding capacity. "We remain committed to maintaining our truck count at approximately 7,300 trucks."
Werner, the fourth-largest truckload carrier ranked by revenue, cut its tractor count 19.8 percent from the end of 2007 through the second quarter of 2010.
-- Contact William B. Cassidy at email@example.com.