Less-than-truckload carrier Saia (NASDAQ: SAIA) reported first-quarter earnings per share of $1.40, 3 cents higher than the consensus estimate and 34 cents higher than the first quarter of 2020. The Wednesday press release noted the tax rate was 140 basis points lower year-over-year, which provided a 3-cent-per-share tailwind to results.

The Johns Creek, Georgia-based company reported revenue of $484 million, 8.4% higher year-over-year as tonnage grew by 3.7% and revenue per hundredweight (excluding fuel surcharges) increased 5.7%. The quarter had one less workday than the year-ago period. On a per-day basis, tonnage was up 5.3%.

Saia was one of the LTL carriers most impacted by February’s winter storms as roughly 70 of its terminals were fully or partially closed for multiple days.

“For several days in mid-February we had about one-third of our network either closed or with limited operations as a result of severe winter weather which blanketed a good portion of the central U.S.,” said Frederick Holzgrefe, president and CEO. “Some business was undoubtedly lost during those days, but our operations team responded very well to quickly get our network productivity back to pre-storm levels.”

Higher yields drove the bulk of the operating ratio improvement. Saia’s OR improved 140 bps year-over-year to 89.9%, a first-quarter record for the carrier.

Three consecutive quarters with a sub-90% OR have allowed the company to deleverage the balance sheet. Net debt-to-capital declined to 1.3% compared to 18.3% a year ago. Total debt has declined to $66 million from $236 million over the last year.

Full-year net capital expenditures are expected to be $275 million, up from $219 million in 2020.

Saia will host a conference call to discuss first-quarter results with analysts at 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

Table: Saia’s key performance indicators

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