Paul Bunn Is New President, CEO At Covenant Logistics – The Chattanoogan

Covenant Logistics Group, Inc. announced financial and operating results for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, including earnings of $3.39 per diluted share.
As the next step in the company’s long term succession plan, Paul Bunn will be promoted to president and chief operating officer and Joey Hogan will transition to a part time executive vice president role focused on strategic planning, mentoring the leadership team, government relations and other special projects, effective Jan.

1, 2023.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David R. Parker said, “Several years ago, we identified the next generation of leaders for Covenant, and I asked Joey to guide their development. In large part due to Joey’s unique skills and selfless personality, we are now blessed with strong leaders across our business units and corporate staff, which is reflected in the strongest financial results in our history. After 25 years, Joey has earned the right to step back on his terms, and I’m grateful to have worked with him over such a long period.  He has been a great partner and a true leader in every manner, which was most recently evidenced when he said, “Paul is ready.” 
“As grateful as I am for Joey’s contributions, I’m equally grateful to have Paul Bunn stepping into the president role. Paul’s ability to bridge financial and operating roles and communicate our goals and values is a key component in strengthening our company.  Over the past three years, Paul has proven himself repeatedly in positions of increasing responsibility and has over-achieved with each opportunity.  Overall, our team has never been deeper, stronger, or more aligned, and we feel very well positioned for the future.”
Mr. Parker said, “We are pleased to report third quarter earnings of $3.39 per diluted share and non-GAAP adjusted earnings of $1.52 per diluted share. The primary difference between the GAAP and non-GAAP results is excluding a $38.5 million pre-tax gain on sale of a California terminal this quarter from adjusted results.  The adjusted, non-GAAP, results were achieved despite unprecedented inflation cost headwinds and a softening freight market. We expect both cost inflation and lower demand to continue for the remainder of this year and in to 2023. Separately, we are pleased to report progress on our stock repurchase plan.  We purchased approximately 1.0 million shares in the third quarter and, through October 17, 2022, have purchased a total of 3.3 million shares during 2022, demonstrating our strategic commitment towards creating value for our stockholders. 
“For the remainder of 2022 we expect moderating freight demand, greater driver availability, and continuing cost inflation.  Absent a substantial, near-term deterioration in market forces, we expect to finish the fourth quarter with over a billion dollars of total revenue and freight revenue for the year and while we expect fourth quarter margin to worsen compared to the third quarter because of the third quarter gain on sale of a California terminal, we expect adjusted margin in the fourth quarter to be similar to that of the third quarter.   
“As we look toward 2023, we anticipate a difficult freight environment coupled with cost inflation, which will pressure margins.  However, we believe our more resilient operating model, together with diligent execution and teamwork, will result in lower volatility throughout economic and freight market cycles.  We will remain focused on growing our market share, continuing to improve our operations, and becoming a stronger, more profitable, and more predictable business with the opportunity for significant and sustained value creation.”
“Our asset-based segments, Expedited and Dedicated, contributed approximately 68% of total revenue, 85% of operating income, 62% of total freight revenue, and 59% of adjusted operating income in the quarter. Our Expedited segment grew revenue and operating ratio but adjusted operating ratio deteriorated compared to the third quarter last year. Significant cost increases from driver pay, fuel, parts and maintenance overcame the benefits from the addition of AAT in the first quarter of 2022. Our Dedicated segment produced higher revenue and better margins year over year but fell short of improving margins sequentially due to similar cost head winds experienced by Expedited. We continue to work to improve the durability of contracts in these business units to lower volatility across economic and freight cycles. 
“Our asset-light segments, Managed Freight and Warehousing, contributed approximately 32% of total revenue, 15% of operating income, 38% of total freight revenue, and 41% of adjusted operating income in the quarter and combined to generate favorable margins and returns.  Managed Freight continued to exceed our expectations through strong execution and effective coordination with our Expedited and Dedicated segments. Warehousing was able to grow revenue through new customer startups but had diminished margins primarily as a result of incremental cost headwinds associated with new customer startups and investments in capacity for future growth in this segment. 
“We are also pleased to report that Transport Enterprise Leasing (“TEL”), our 49% equity method investment, contributed pre-tax net income of $7.4 million, or $0.38 per share, compared to $3.2 million, or $0.14 per share, in the 2021 quarter.”
Mr. Bunn said, “For the quarter, total revenue in our truckload operations increased 25.2%, to $211.2 million, while averaging 53 fewer tractors, compared to 2021. The revenue increase consisted of $21.8 million higher freight revenue and $20.7 million higher fuel surcharge revenue. The increase in freight revenue primarily related to a 17.7% increase in average freight revenue per tractor, offset by a 2.3% decrease in the average operating fleet size.  The fleet reduction is largely attributable to increases in the number of tractors out for maintenance related issues, particularly with older units operating in our Dedicated fleet, which have not been replaced due to constraints around procuring normalized replacement volumes of new equipment.”   
Mr. Bunn added, “Freight revenue in our Expedited segment increased $18.7 million, or 25.6%. Average total tractors increased by 80 units or 9.6% to 913, compared to 833 in the prior year quarter. The increase in tractors was attributable to the acquisition of AAT in the first quarter of the year and the increased ability to recruit and onboard qualified drivers. Average freight revenue per tractor per week increased 14.6%.”
“For the quarter, freight revenue in our Dedicated segment increased $3.1 million, or 4.3%. Average Dedicated tractors decreased by 134 units or 8.7% to 1,405, compared to 1,539 in the prior year quarter. Average freight revenue per tractor per week increased 14.2%.”
Mr. Bunn continued, “Our truckload operating cost per total mile increased 2 cents or 0.8%, largely due to increases in salaries, wages and related expense, operations and maintenance expense, and insurance expense, partially offset by a $38.5 million gain on sale of a California terminal. On a non-GAAP or adjusted basis, our truckload operating cost per total mile increased 27 cents or 13.6%. 
“Salaries, wages and related expense increased year-over-year $11.5 million on an absolute basis and 16 cents on a per total mile basis. Driver pay comprised approximately 70% of the increase, non-driver pay increases comprised approximately 18% of the increase, and the balance was attributable to worker’s compensation and benefits. 
“Operations and maintenance related expense increased year-over-year by $7.0 million, or 10 cents per total mile, compared to the 2021 quarter. The combination of the increased average age of our equipment, combined with general inflationary costs of tires, parts and maintenance activities and increased overage, shortage, and damage expense all contributed to the increase.  Going forward, as we replace older equipment with new equipment, we anticipate improvements to these results.
“Insurance related expense increased year-over-year by $1.6 million, or 2 cents per total mile, compared to the 2021 quarter primarily due to the unfavorable development of a small number of prior period claims, as well as claims experience during the current quarter. 
“For the quarter, Managed Freight’s freight revenue decreased $11.7 million, or 13.0%, from the prior year quarter. Operating income and adjusted operating income declined $0.6 million and $0.8 million or 7.0% and 8.2%, respectively, compared to the third quarter of 2021. Although margins have improved, Managed Freight’s reduced revenue is attributable to reduced volumes of overflow freight from both Expedited and Dedicated truckload operations. With the softening freight market, we anticipate both the revenue and operating income attributable to overflow freight to continue to decline.”“For the quarter, Warehousing’s freight revenue increased 40.5% versus the prior year quarter. The increase in revenue was primarily driven by the year-over-year impact of new customer business added during the current year. Operating income and adjusted operating income for the Warehousing segment decreased $0.1 million and $0.2 million, respectively, compared to the third quarter of 2021. The year-over-year decline in profitability with this segment is largely attributable to temporary incremental costs associated with new startup business and the costs of securing additional unoccupied leased space in key locations, which is consistent with our longer-term growth strategy. Over time, we anticipate margins in this segment to normalize at high single digits.”
Tripp Grant, the company’s chief financial officer, added the following comments: “At September 30, 2022, our total indebtedness, composed of total debt and finance lease obligations, net of cash (“net indebtedness”), increased by $3.7 million to approximately $32.2 million as compared to December 31, 2021. In addition, our net indebtedness to total capitalization increased to 7.8% at September 30, 2022 from 7.5% at December 31, 2021.
The increase in net indebtedness is primarily attributable to the base purchase price paid for the acquisition of AAT in the amount of $37.4 million, the repurchase of approximately 3.0 million shares under our stock repurchase programs for $70.9 million, net capital expenditures of $11.3 million and dividend payments of $3.2 million, offset by cash flows from operations.
“At September 30, 2022, we had cash and cash equivalents totaling $59.3 million primarily attributable to the $43.5 million of proceeds from the sale of a California based terminal late in the quarter. Under our ABL credit facility, we had no borrowings outstanding, undrawn letters of credit outstanding of $23.9 million, and available borrowing capacity of $86.1 million. The sole financial covenant under our ABL facility is a fixed charge coverage ratio covenant that is tested only when available borrowing capacity is below a certain threshold. Based on availability as of September 30, 2022, no testing was required, and we do not expect testing to be required in the foreseeable future. 
“Our net capital investment through September 30, 2022, used $11.3 million as compared to proceeds of $22.0 million for the prior year period. At the end of the quarter, we had $1.4 million in assets held for sale that we anticipate disposing within twelve months. The average age of our tractors is sequentially the same as the second quarter at 29 months and is expected to decline starting in the fourth quarter of the year and throughout 2023 as we seek to normalize the average age of our fleet. 
“Our baseline expectation for net capital expenditures the remainder of 2022 is $10 million to $30 million, a wide range as a result of our efforts to opportunistically reduce the average age of our fleet and the uncertainties around scheduled deliveries, the ability to park and prepare larger volumes of used equipment to sell in a timely manner and strong but moderating sale prices for used equipment.  We believe the benefits of improved utilization, fuel economy and maintenance costs will out-weigh the increased costs of new equipment.  
“Based on our current capital structure and expected net capital expenditures for the remainder of the year, we have substantial flexibility to continue to repurchase stock, declare quarterly dividends and evaluate other capital allocation alternatives.”
October 21, 2022
October 21, 2022
October 21, 2022
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