NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa, Jan. 23, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Heartland Express, Inc. (Nasdaq:HTLD) announced today financial results for the quarter ended December 31, 2012. Operating revenues for the quarter increased 3.8% to $136.2 million from $131.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Operating income for the three month period was negatively impacted by a $4.1 million decrease in gains on disposal of property and equipment. Net income was $14.3 million compared to $17.1 million in the 2011 period, a 16.5% decrease. Basic earnings per share decreased 14.4% to $0.17 from $0.20 reported in the fourth quarter of 2011. Fuel surcharge revenues for the quarter increased 5.6% to $28.0 million from $26.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. For the quarter, Heartland Express, Inc. (the "Company") posted an operating ratio (operating expenses as a percentage of operating revenues) of 81.9% and a 10.5% net margin (net income as a percentage of operating revenues) compared to 79.5% and 13.0%, respectively, in the fourth quarter of last year.
Operating revenues for the year increased 3.2% to $545.7 million from $528.6 million in the prior year. Operating income for the year was negatively impacted by a $17.0 million decrease in gains on disposal of property and equipment. Net income was $61.5 million compared to $69.9 million in the 2011 period, a 12.0% decrease. Basic earnings per share decreased 8.2% to $0.72 from $0.78 reported in 2011. Fuel surcharge revenues for the year increased 4.3% to $112.4 million from $107.8 million in the prior year. For the year, the Company posted an operating ratio of 82.6% and an 11.3% net margin compared to 79.8% and 13.2%, respectively, reported last year.
The Company continues to experience significant swings in fuel expense from quarter to quarter. Fuel expense increased $3.2 million or 8.2% during the quarter and $7.1 million or 4.4% during the year, primarily due to an increase in average fuel prices over the similar prior periods. The U.S. average cost of fuel was $4.015 per gallon during the fourth quarter of 2012, a 3.7% increase over the fourth quarter of the prior year and $3.971 for the year, a 3.2% increase from the prior year. The Company continues to focus on fuel surcharge pricing, truck idling hours, overall tractor fuel economy, and fuel purchasing decisions in an effort to lessen the impact of higher fuel costs.
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