Saia Gains, Old Dominion Slips In Fourth-Quarter Updates

Two leading less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers posted fourth-quarter operating data late on Dec. 4 — and one could be benefiting at the expense of the other.

Saia Inc. SAIA posted year-on-year shipment and tonnage gains in October and November. Meanwhile, Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. ODFL reported declines in revenue, tonnage and shipments for November. Saia did not report revenue data covering the two-month period.

Saia is in the final leg of a nearly three-year expansion into the Northeast U.S., which it said has gone well. Saia could be gaining share in the Northeast as well as other regions. Because LTL is a network business, any gains in one region can benefit other parts of the network. Thus, Saia's gains in the Northeast could, by extension, be leading to some share erosion for rivals such as Old Dominion in other parts of the country.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Saia said daily LTL shipments in October rose 6.9%, while daily tonnage rose 3.5%. Daily shipments in November rose 2.7% while tonnage rose 1.2%. Weight per shipment in October and November declined 3.2% and 1.2%, respectively.

Old Dominion, meanwhile, posted a 3.2% drop in daily revenue in November as a 5.3% drop in tonnage could not be fully offset by an increase in revenue per every 100 pounds transported, a key metric of the yield on the tonnage carried. Old Dominion did not break out so-called revenue per hundredweight results for November but said that through the first two months of the quarter, revenue per hundredweight rose 2.6% including the impact of fuel surcharges, and 4.1% excluding fuel surcharges, over the 2018 period.

Shipments in November declined by 5.7% year-over-year, Old Dominion said. The drop was partially offset by a 0.4% rise in weight per shipment, it said.

All LTL carriers have seen their top lines clipped by the ongoing weakness in the U.S. industrial economy, the sector's bread and butter. Brad Jacobs, chairman and CEO of XPO Logistics Inc. XPO, which has a large LTL operation, has said the U.S. has been in an industrial recession for about a year. Old Dominion executives have said for the past six months that they didn't see a meaningful shipment and tonnage turnaround until 2020.

For its part, Saia's shipment and tonnage activity have held up better than most, if not all, LTL carriers.

In a statement, Old Dominion President and CEO Greg C. Gantt said his company's volume trends are "beginning to stabilize." He didn't elaborate. Saia executives did not provide comment in its filing.

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