While year-on-year comparisons are the standard for earnings seasons, comparisons this year between the first and second quarters are necessary to grasp how much worse things were for trucking between April and June relative to the first three months of the year.

For Marten Transport (NASDAQ: MRTN), the answer was: not all that much worse.

The companywide operating ratio net of fuel came in at 88.7% from 88.6% one quarter earlier, a tiny deterioration. In the second quarter of 2022, when freight markets were just beginning to show the signs of a bull market coming to an end, the consolidated OR at Marten was 84.8%. 

Marten was able to show only minor deterioration overall from the first quarter in part because it was able to hold expenses in check. Salaries, wages and benefits in the second quarter were $96.3 million, a small drop from a year earlier but down from $98.5 million in the first quarter.

A more notable decline was recorded in purchased transportation, where expenses in the second quarter of $48.3 million were down from $54.1 million in the first quarter and were down a whopping $19.1 million from the second quarter of 2022.

Add it all up and expenses at Marten were $257.46 million in the second quarter, compared to $269 million in the first quarter and $288.6 million a year ago.

That allowed the company to post net income of $21.9 million in the second quarter, down just 2.6% from $22.5 million in the first quarter. A year ago, net income was $31.7 million. 

Comparisons against the second quarter of 2022 were always going to be tough for Marten this year. Last year, the company’s earnings statement touted the highest operating revenue and operating income in company history.

In a prepared statement released with the earnings, Executive Chairman Randolph Marten said net income this year was the second greatest in the company’s history — after 2022 — as was operating revenue at $285.7 million. The highest second-quarter operating revenue was $329.6 million last year. Second-quarter operating revenue this year was down $12.3 million from the first quarter.

There was some deterioration in volume measurements sequentially at Marten. Average revenue net of fuel per tractor per week fell to $4,472 in the second quarter from $4,571 in the first three months of the year. But total truckload miles rose to 39,321 from 38,237. Dedicated miles rose to 34,833 from 34,076.

OR performance sequentially was worse for truckload (90.6% in the second quarter versus 90.2% in the first) but better in dedicated (83.8% in the second quarter but 84.2% in the first). The deterioration in Marten’s overall OR was also linked to a 100.9% OR in its intermodal unit, down significantly from last year’s 85.2%. 

Brokerage revenue net of fuel declined sequentially to $41.2 million from $42.4 million in the first quarter. It was down from $55.3 million a year ago.

Marten’s stock has struggled of late during a generally strong equities market, but so have some other truckload carriers.

Marten is up only 6.2% in the past year and just 3.4% in the past three months. But Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN) is up about 7.2% in the past year and down 4.4% in the past three months. Heartland Express (NASDAQ: HTLD) is up about 8.5% in the past year and about 1.9% in the past three months.

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The post Marten sees minor pullback from Q1, sharper drop from a year ago appeared first on FreightWaves.

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