NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa, Oct. 11, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Heartland Express, Inc. (Nasdaq:HTLD) announced today financial results for the quarter ended September 30, 2012. Operating revenues for the quarter increased 1.9% to $135.0 million from $132.5 million in the third quarter of 2011. Operating revenues for the nine month period increased 3.1% to $409.6 million from $397.4 million in the 2011 period. Operating income for the three and nine month periods of 2012 were negatively impacted by a $5.1 million and $12.9 million decrease in gains on disposal of property and equipment, respectively. Net income was $12.4 million in the 2012 quarter period compared to $15.4 million in the 2011 quarter period, a 19.3% decrease. Net income was $47.2 million in the nine month period ended September 30, 2012 compared to $52.8 million in the same nine month period in 2011, a 10.5% decrease. Basic earnings per share decreased 11.8% to $0.15 from $0.17 reported in the third quarter of 2011. Basic earnings per share decreased 5.2% to $0.55 from $0.58 reported in the first nine months of 2011.
Fuel surcharge revenues for the quarter decreased 1.0% to $27.1 million from $27.4 million in the third quarter of 2011. Fuel surcharge revenues for the nine month period increased 3.9% to $84.4 million from $81.3 million in the 2011 nine month period. For the quarter, we posted an operating ratio (operating expenses as a percentage of operating revenues) of 85.4% and a 9.2% net margin (net income as a percentage of operating revenues). For the nine month period, the Company posted an operating ratio of 82.9% and an 11.5% net margin.
The industry continues to be challenged by the shortage of qualified drivers and erratic fuel prices. We achieved minimal fleet growth in the 3rd quarter of 2012 compared to the third quarter of 2011. We continue to aggressively manage our fuel cost through newer model revenue equipment and strategic fuel purchasing decisions. Fuel expense increased $1.5 million or 3.6% during the quarter. The U.S. average cost of diesel fuel was $3.957 per gallon during the third quarter of 2012 compared to $3.859 per gallon in the third quarter of 2011, a 2.5% increase. The average cost of diesel fuel increased approximately $0.40 per gallon during the 3rd quarter of 2012 and the spread between the highest price and lowest price during the quarter was $0.45 per gallon. Fuel price swings of this nature will continue to have negative impacts to our earnings.