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Heartland Express, Inc. (Nasdaq:HTLD) announced today financial results for the quarter ended December 31, 2010. Operating revenues for the quarter increased 13.2% to $129.2 million from $114.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. Net income was $15.4 million compared to $10.7 million in the 2009 period, a 43.9% increase. Earnings per share increased 41.7% to $0.17 from $0.12 reported in the fourth quarter of 2009. For the quarter, Heartland Express, Inc. (the “Company”) posted an operating ratio (operating expenses as a percentage of operating revenues) of 81.0% and a 11.9% net margin (net income as a percentage of operating revenues) compared to 86.2% and 9.4%, respectively, in the fourth quarter of last year.
Operating revenues for the year ended December 31, 2010 increased 8.7% to $499.5 million from $459.5 million in the 2009 period. Net income was $62.2 million compared to $56.9 million in the 2009 period, a 9.2% increase. Earnings per share increased 11.3% to $0.69 from $0.62 reported in the year ended December 31, 2009. The Company accomplished this increase in earnings per share despite a decrease in gains on disposal of property and equipment and an increase in depreciation expense which collectively reduced earnings per share by $0.07. These changes were primarily attributable to the purchase of new tractors during the latter half of 2009 and the third and fourth quarters of 2010. For the year ended December 31, 2010, the Company posted an operating ratio of 81.7% and a 12.5% net margin compared to 82.8% and 12.4%, respectively, reported last year.
Operating revenues continue to trend upward as a result of tighter industry capacity. However, freight volumes are still moderate in this less than robust economy. The Company continues to focus on improving utilization and cost controls as is reflected in our fourth quarter and year-to-date operating ratio and net margin. Industry capacity will continue to be restrained by the shortage of qualified drivers. Driver recruitment and retention are expected to be impacted by the stringent safety requirements of the CSA enforcement (Compliance Safety Accountability). The Company will complete the installation of PeopleNet® electronic on-board recorders in all 2009 model and newer trucks, estimated to be approximately 95% of the fleet, by the end of the first quarter. This on-board computing and communications system, including paperless logs, is expected to improve safety, equipment utilization, and customer service.