One of the most profitable trucking companies in the nation got a little more profitable in late 2011,despite higher equipment and fuel costs and a tough hiring market.
Heartland Express generated more profit in 2011 as higher rates expanded the truckload carrier’s bottom line earnings faster than its top line revenue. The North Liberty, Iowa-based company increased net profit 12.4 percent to $69.9 million for the full year on a 5.8 percent increase in revenue to $528.6 million.
For the fourth quarter, net profit rose 11.3 percent to $17.1 million while operating revenue inched up 1.5 percent to $131.2 million, Heartland said Friday.
The quarterly operating ratio dropped to 79.5 percent from 81 percent a year ago. Heartland’s net margin rose 0.5 percent year-over-year to 13 percent.
The carrier reversed a 15.8 percent decline in net profit in the third quarter that was attributed in part to rising fuel prices and an increasingly tight driver market. Heartland also bolstered its profits while spending a significant amount of money on new equipment, purchasing 844 new Navistar trucks over the year.
That pushed the average age of Heartland’s trucks down to 1.7 years in 2011. All its tractors are 2010 models or newer. Heartland will get 27 tractors this month.
Heartland also purchased 2,600 new Great Dane and Wabash trailers during 2011 and sold 2,813 trailers as used trailer prices climbed. Its average trailer age is 4.1 years.