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Werner Enterprises Reports Improved First Quarter 2018 Revenues and Earnings

  Three Months Ended
March 31,
(In thousands, except per share amounts) 2018   2017   % Change
Total revenues $ 562,684     $ 501,221     12 %
Trucking revenues, net of fuel surcharge 364,188     330,489     10 %
Werner Logistics revenues 117,420     99,853     18 %
Operating income 35,115     25,972     35 %
Net income 27,807     16,019     74 %
Earnings per diluted share 0.38     0.22     73 %

OMAHA, Neb., April 19, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Werner Enterprises, Inc. (WERN), one of the nation’s largest transportation and logistics companies, reported improved revenues and earnings for the first quarter ended March 31, 2018. Earnings per diluted share were $0.38 for first quarter 2018 compared to earnings per diluted share of $0.22 for first quarter 2017.

First quarter 2018 freight demand in our One-Way Truckload fleet was much stronger than normal for first quarter. Demand was consistently strong each month of first quarter 2018 and was broad-based geographically. Freight volumes thus far in April 2018 continue to be much stronger than normal.

Average revenues per tractor per week increased 6.8% in first quarter 2018 compared to first quarter 2017 due to a 10.0% increase in average revenues per total mile, partially offset by a 2.9% decrease in average miles per truck. The increase in average revenues per total mile was due primarily to higher contractual rates, more freight choices with higher rates and lane mix changes.

Our trucks and drivers experienced more severe weather than normal in first quarter 2018 that was caused by multiple winter storms and colder temperatures in the Eastern and Midwest regions of the U.S. compared to a relatively mild winter in first quarter 2017. We estimate the more challenging weather conditions reduced earnings by three cents per diluted share in first quarter 2018 compared to first quarter 2017. This included cost increases for higher insurance and claims due to an increase in event frequency and severity; higher equipment maintenance costs for towing, road calls, jump starts and other weather-related maintenance; more workers’ compensation claims related to weather incidents; higher fuel costs due to increased truck idling; and reduced revenue due to temporary closures of our driver training schools for severe weather.

In first quarter 2018, we averaged 7,427 trucks in service in the Truckload Transportation Services (Truckload) segment and 43 intermodal drayage trucks in the Werner Logistics segment. We ended first quarter 2018 with 7,385 trucks in the Truckload segment, a year-over-year increase of 205 trucks and a sequential decrease of 50 trucks. Our Dedicated unit ended first quarter 2018 with 4,030 trucks (or 55% of our total Truckload segment fleet) compared to 3,710 trucks at the end of first quarter 2017. During first quarter 2018, we added several new Dedicated fleets.

We are continuing to invest in newer trucks and trailers in 2018 to improve our driver experience, raise operational efficiency and more effectively manage our maintenance, safety and fuel costs. The average age of our truck fleet remains low by industry standards and was 1.9 years as of March 31, 2018. Net capital expenditures in first quarter 2018 were $55.5 million compared to $14.6 million in first quarter 2017. We expect net capital expenditures for 2018 to be in the range of $300 million to $350 million. This range allows for increased investment in our tractor and trailer fleet as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. It reflects increased confidence in potential growth due to a strong Dedicated pipeline and overall market demand. Tractor allocations between fleets are made based on relative returns, and growth is dependent on improved margins and continued success attracting quality drivers in a difficult market.

The driver recruiting market is increasingly challenging. Several ongoing market factors persist including a declining number of, and increased competition for, driver training school graduates, an historically low national unemployment rate, aging truck driver demographics and increased truck safety regulations including the regulation changes for electronic logging devices. We continue to take significant actions to strengthen our driver recruiting and retention to make Werner a preferred choice for the best drivers, including raising driver pay, maintaining a new truck and trailer fleet, purchasing best-in-class safety and training features for all new trucks, investing in our driver training school network and collaborating with customers to improve or eliminate unproductive freight. These efforts continue to have positive results on our driver turnover with our first quarter 2018 driver turnover percentage being one of the lowest in the last 20 years.

Due to growth in company trucks and a decline in independent contractor trucks in first quarter 2018 compared to first quarter 2017, both company truck miles increased and independent contractor miles decreased by approximately 5 million miles. This caused a shift in expense from rent and purchased transportation expense to most other operating expense categories in first quarter 2018 compared to first quarter 2017.

Gains on sales of assets were $2.7 million in first quarter 2018. This compares to gains on sales of assets of $1.4 million in first quarter 2017. In first quarter 2018, we sold slightly more trucks and fewer trailers than in first quarter 2017. We realized higher average gains per truck and higher average gains per trailer in first quarter 2018 compared to first quarter 2017. The used truck pricing market remained difficult but is beginning to show signs of improvement. Gains on sales of assets are reflected as a reduction of Other Operating Expenses in our income statement. First quarter 2017 included an increase in depreciation expense of $2.6 million due to a reduction in the estimated residual values of certain trucks as a result of the weak used truck market.

Diesel fuel prices were 39 cents per gallon higher in first quarter 2018 than in first quarter 2017 and were 8 cents per gallon higher than in fourth quarter 2017. For the first 19 days of April 2018, the average diesel fuel price per gallon was 43 cents higher than the average diesel fuel price per gallon in the same period of 2017 and 55 cents higher than in second quarter 2017. The components of our total fuel cost consist of and are recorded in our income statement as follows: (i) Fuel (fuel expense for company trucks excluding federal and state fuel taxes); (ii) Taxes and Licenses (federal and state fuel taxes); and (iii) Rent and Purchased Transportation (fuel component of our independent contractor costs, including the base cost of fuel and additional fuel surcharge reimbursement for costs exceeding the fuel base).

Our effective income tax rate in first quarter 2018 of 21.3% was lower than our expected range of 25% to 26% due to the benefit of discrete federal and state income tax items. We expect our effective income tax rate to be in the range of 25% to 26% going forward.

To provide shippers with additional sources of managed capacity and network analysis, we continue to develop our non-asset based Werner Logistics segment. Werner Logistics includes Brokerage, Freight Management, Intermodal, Werner Global Logistics (International) and Werner Final Mile.

  Three Months Ended
March 31,
Werner Logistics (amounts in thousands) $   %   $   %
Operating revenues $ 117,420     100.0     $ 99,853     100.0  
Rent and purchased transportation expense 100,276     85.4     84,317     84.4  
Gross margin 17,144     14.6     15,536     15.6  
Other operating expenses 14,387     12.3     12,487     12.5  
Operating income $ 2,757     2.3     $ 3,049     3.1  

In first quarter 2018, Werner Logistics revenues increased $17.6 million, or 18%, and operating income dollars decreased $0.3 million, or 10%, compared to first quarter 2017. The Werner Logistics gross margin percentage in first quarter 2018 of 14.6% decreased 96 basis points compared to the gross margin percentage of 15.6% in first quarter 2017. The Werner Logistics operating income percentage in first quarter 2018 of 2.3% decreased 71 basis points from first quarter 2017 of 3.1%. Tighter carrier capacity in first quarter 2018 compared to first quarter 2017 resulted in higher purchased transportation costs for the Company’s predominately contractual logistics business causing the lower gross margin and operating income percentages.

In first quarter 2018, Werner Logistics achieved 36.3% revenue growth year over year in our truck brokerage solution, including transactional brokerage. Our freight management and international solutions had revenue growth, while intermodal had slightly lower revenues due to a planned comprehensive yield initiative that led to a volume decline. The Werner Logistics operating income percentage improved sequentially the last two quarters, from 1.3% in third quarter 2017 to 1.8% in fourth quarter 2017 to 2.3% in first quarter 2018. We continue to see strong customer acceptance of the value of the Werner Logistics portfolio of service offerings, particularly as the market strengthens and shippers tend to consolidate their logistics business with the stability of larger asset-backed logistics providers. Achieving contractual rate increases in 2018 to recoup rising costs of third-party capacity is a focus for Werner Logistics.

Comparisons of the operating ratios for the Truckload segment (net of fuel surcharge revenues of $60.7 million and $48.0 million in first quarters 2018 and 2017, respectively) and the Werner Logistics segment are shown below.

  Three Months Ended
March 31,
Operating Ratios 2018   2017   Difference
Truckload Transportation Services 91.0 %   93.0 %   (2.0 )%
Werner Logistics 97.7 %   96.9 %   0.8 %

Fluctuating fuel prices and fuel surcharge revenues impact the total company operating ratio and the Truckload segment’s operating ratio when fuel surcharges are reported on a gross basis as revenues versus netting against fuel expenses. Eliminating fuel surcharge revenues, which are generally a more volatile source of revenue, provides a more consistent basis for comparing the results of operations from period to period. The Truckload segment’s operating ratios for first quarter 2018 and first quarter 2017 are 92.3% and 93.9%, respectively, when fuel surcharge revenues are reported as revenues instead of a reduction of operating expenses.

Our financial position remains strong. As of March 31, 2018, we had $75 million of debt outstanding and over $1.2 billion of stockholders’ equity.

  (In thousands, except per share amounts)
  Three Months Ended
March 31,
  2018   2017
  $   %   $   %
Operating revenues $ 562,684     100.0     $ 501,221     100.0  
Operating expenses:              
Salaries, wages and benefits 182,794     32.5     160,839     32.1  
Fuel 59,032     10.5     45,156     9.0  
Supplies and maintenance 45,739     8.1     38,232     7.6  
Taxes and licenses 22,493     4.0     20,786     4.2  
Insurance and claims 21,158     3.8     19,840     4.0  
Depreciation 55,506     9.9     55,336     11.0  
Rent and purchased transportation 135,922     24.2     126,425     25.2  
Communications and utilities 4,107     0.7     4,072     0.8  
Other 818     0.1     4,563     0.9  
Total operating expenses 527,569     93.8     475,249     94.8  
Operating income 35,115     6.2     25,972     5.2  
Other expense (income):  
Interest expense 482     0.1     776     0.2  
Interest income (740 )   (0.1 )   (914 )   (0.2 )
Other 53         53      
Total other expense (income) (205 )       (85 )    
Income before income taxes 35,320     6.2     26,057     5.2  
Income tax expense (benefit) 7,513     1.3     10,038     2.0  
Net income $ 27,807     4.9     $ 16,019     3.2  
Diluted shares outstanding 72,671         72,447      
Diluted earnings per share $ 0.38         $ 0.22      

  (In thousands)
  Three Months Ended
March 31,
  2018   2017
Truckload Transportation Services $ 431,556     $ 385,003  
Werner Logistics 117,420     99,853  
Other (1) 13,259     16,110  
Corporate 907     422  
Subtotal 563,142     501,388  
Inter-segment eliminations (2) (458 )   (167 )
Total $ 562,684     $ 501,221  
Operating Income      
Truckload Transportation Services $ 33,422     $ 23,466  
Werner Logistics 2,757     3,049  
Other (1) (386 )   145  
Corporate (678 )   (688 )
Total $ 35,115     $ 25,972  

(1) Other includes our driver training schools, transportation-related activities such as third-party equipment maintenance and equipment leasing, and other business activities. On January 1, 2018, we adopted Accounting Standards Update 2014-09, “Revenue from Contracts with Customers”, using the modified retrospective transition method, and comparative information has not been restated. Adoption of the new standard resulted in a $3.1 million reduction of Other revenues that would have been reported as Other operating expense prior to the new standard with no impact to operating income.

(2) Inter-segment eliminations represent transactions between reporting segments that are eliminated in consolidation.

  Three Months Ended
March 31,
  2018   2017   % Change
Truckload Transportation Services segment          
Average percentage of empty miles 12.56 %   12.39 %   1.4 %
Average completed trip length in miles (loaded) 449     469     (4.3 )%
Average tractors in service 7,427     7,199     3.2 %
Average revenues per tractor per week (1) $ 3,772     $ 3,531     6.8 %
Total trailers (at quarter end) 22,460     22,035      
Total tractors (at quarter end)          
Company 6,780     6,455      
Independent contractor 605     725      
Total tractors 7,385     7,180      
Werner Logistics segment          
Average tractors in service 43     62      
Total trailers (at quarter end) 1,730     1,780      
Total tractors (at quarter end) 44     55      

(1) Net of fuel surcharge revenues.

  (In thousands)
  Three Months Ended
March 31,
  2018   2017
Capital expenditures, net $ 55,506     $ 14,594  
Cash flow from operations (1) 99,862     85,928  
Return on assets (annualized) 6.1 %   3.6 %
Return on equity (annualized) 9.3 %   6.4 %

(1) On January 1, 2018, we adopted Accounting Standards Update 2016-18, “Statement of Cash Flows (Topic 230): Restricted Cash”, by applying the retrospective transition method to each period presented. Adoption of the guidance resulted in an $11.0 million increase to first quarter 2017 cash flow from operations.

  (In thousands, except share amounts)
  March 31, 2018   December 31,
Current assets:      
Cash and cash equivalents $ 38,789     $ 13,626  
Accounts receivable, trade, less allowance of $8,436 and $8,250, respectively 301,967     304,174  
Other receivables 17,076     26,491  
Inventories and supplies 10,620     11,694  
Prepaid taxes, licenses and permits 11,991     15,972  
Other current assets 30,824     28,272  
Total current assets 411,267     400,229  
Property and equipment 2,126,307     2,114,337  
Less – accumulated depreciation 776,125     767,474  
Property and equipment, net 1,350,182     1,346,863  
Other non-current assets 60,596     60,899  
Total assets $ 1,822,045     $ 1,807,991  
Current liabilities:      
Checks issued in excess of cash balances $     $ 21,539  
Accounts payable 83,295     73,802  
Insurance and claims accruals 73,674     79,674  
Accrued payroll 30,733     32,520  
Other current liabilities 24,095     24,642  
Total current liabilities 211,797     232,177  
Long-term debt, net of current portion 75,000     75,000  
Other long-term liabilities 12,045     12,575  
Insurance and claims accruals, net of current portion 108,560     108,270  
Deferred income taxes 201,539     195,187  
Stockholders’ equity:      
Common stock, $.01 par value, 200,000,000 shares authorized; 80,533,536      
shares issued; 72,454,202 and 72,409,222 shares outstanding, respectively 805     805  
Paid-in capital 102,904     102,563  
Retained earnings 1,292,618     1,267,871  
Accumulated other comprehensive loss (13,232 )   (15,835 )
Treasury stock, at cost; 8,079,334 and 8,124,314 shares, respectively (169,991 )   (170,622 )
Total stockholders’ equity 1,213,104     1,184,782  
Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity $ 1,822,045     $ 1,807,991  

Werner Enterprises, Inc. was founded in 1956 and is a premier transportation and logistics company, with coverage throughout North America, Asia, Europe, South America, Africa and Australia. Werner maintains its global headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska and maintains offices in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China and Australia. Werner is among the five largest truckload carriers in the United States, with a diversified portfolio of transportation services that includes dedicated; medium-to-long-haul, regional and expedited van; and temperature-controlled. The Werner Logistics portfolio includes truck brokerage, freight management, intermodal, international and final mile services. International services are provided through Werner’s domestic and global subsidiary companies and include ocean, air and ground transportation; freight forwarding; and customs brokerage.

Werner Enterprises, Inc.’s common stock trades on The NASDAQ Global Select MarketSM under the symbol “WERN”. For further information about Werner, visit the Company’s website at www.werner.com.

This press release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, as amended. Such forward-looking statements are based on information presently available to the Company’s management and are current only as of the date made. Actual results could also differ materially from those anticipated as a result of a number of factors, including, but not limited to, those discussed in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2017.

For those reasons, undue reliance should not be placed on any forward-looking statement. The Company assumes no duty or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement, although it may do so from time to time as management believes is warranted or as may be required by applicable securities law. Any such updates or revisions may be made by filing reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, through the issuance of press releases or by other methods of public disclosure.


John J. Steele
Executive Vice President, Treasurer
and Chief Financial Officer
(402) 894-3036