Truckload carrier Marten Transport saw its fourth-quarter net income decline by more than half from the corresponding quarter of 2022. The financial report reflected about what one would expect from a truckload carrier in the middle of a freight recession.

Revenue was down across the board at the company. At Marten’s Truckload division, operating revenue dropped 13.6%. In its Dedicated operations, the slide was 17.5%. Intermodal suffered a 35.7% decrease in operating revenue.

And even though expenses were down 12.8%, it wasn’t enough to stop net income at Marten from declining to a per-share number of 15 cents from 31 cents a year ago.

In the company’s prepared statement accompanying its earnings — Marten (NASDAQ: MRTN) does not do an earnings call with analysts — Executive Chairman Randolph Marten suggested that the company felt strong enough about the market going forward to hold the line on prices.

“We remain focused on both minimizing the freight market’s impact on our operations, and investing in and positioning our operations to capitalize on profitable organic growth opportunities as the market moves toward equilibrium from its current recessionary late stages — with fair compensation for our premium services,” Marten said in the statement. “Accordingly, we have not agreed to any rate reductions since last August.”

The expense picture at Marten, though down overall, had a few negatives that were enough for Randolph Marten to point them out in his statement.

The insurance and claims line in the earnings statement rose to $15.2 million from $12.4 million a year earlier. “Our higher insurance and claims and health insurance expense and less revenue equipment gains reduced our operating income by $4.8 million, or 4.4 cents per diluted share, from this year’s third quarter,” Marten said.

The company’s earnings along with its note about higher insurance costs comes a day after Knight-Swift also cited insurance as a key factor in its fiscal performance, which recorded a net loss. However, the Knight-Swift insurance woes were in an insurance business the company is in the process of exiting.

Other expenses were held in check. Salaries and wages were $91.3 million, down from $104.7 million a year ago. Purchased transportation fell to $47.3 million from $60.6 million.

On a broader freight market basis, Marten said of the conditions facing the company: “This quarter’s earnings were heavily pressured by the freight market recession’s weak demand and oversupply, inflationary operating costs, and cumulative impact of decreased freight rates leading to freight network disruptions.”

Operating ratios throughout the company reflected the weak market. The OR in Truckload net of fuel deteriorated to 97.4% from 87.6%. For Dedicated, the slide was less dramatic, weakening to 88.1% from 85.4%. Intermodal dropped to 98.1% from 96.8%; brokerage came in at 91% after being at 88.5% a year ago.

Sequentially, Marten mostly was weaker but not dramatically. The OR for Truckload in the third quarter was 97.2%, slightly better than the fourth quarter. Dedicated’s drop to 88.1% came from a third-quarter number of 86.4%. Intermodal did significantly better, moving into the black at 98.1% after being at 105.9% in the third quarter. Brokerage’s 91% performance was down from 89.7%.

Overall, Marten had an OR of 93.2%, compared to 87.8% a year earlier. A quarter earlier, the consolidated OR was 92.8%.

Marten’s stock performance is not showing a clear trend. In the past month, it’s down about 2.9%. For the 52 weeks, it’s a decline of about 8%. But for the past three months, Marten stock is up about 13.1%.

According to SeekingAlpha, the 15-cents-per-share net income figure for the company was off projections by 3 cents. Revenue of $268.22 million fell short of consensus projections by $3.4 million.

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