Old Dominion Booms as Truckers Bust

Jul.17.08 | About: Old Dominion (ODFL)

Old Dominion Freight Lines (NASDAQ:ODFL) gained 20% yesterday for a very good reason.

While other truck haulers are jacking up their prices or simply collapsing under the weight of fuel costs, Old Dominion is actually making a profit. And it’s making a higher profit this year than it was this time last year. How the heck did it manage that?

Old Dominion is a little different than your average freight shipping company. It works with smaller businesses, those that don’t need to send entire fleets across the country to organize their inventory. It bases its prices on the size and weight of whatever a customer needs to ship, more like UPS (NYSE:UPS) than J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ:JBHT).

And it does all of this while still offering quick delivery and enough options to suit any need. And I do mean any need. The number of shipping choices available through Old Dominion’s website is overwhelming for anyone who’s just used to choosing between Priority and First Class.

The freight transporter just began offering warehouse services to its customers, giving yet another reason it’s perfect for smaller companies. Customers with less than a whole warehouseful of stuff can store their wares with Old Dominion and only pay a fraction of the cost to rent an entire warehouse.

Old Dominion has an interesting business model, and it seems to be working for the company. The freight runner just moved up its guidance for second quarter earnings and now expects full-year earnings to reach between $1.90 and $1.95 per share.

Compared to a year ago, Old Dominion has seen a 10.2% increase in tonnage for the second quarter of 2008, which contributed to its higher estimate for the year. This only leads to two possible conclusions:  Companies are producing more stuff, or a remarkable number of new customers are opting for Old Dominion over its less flexible competitors. And I’m pretty sure the manufacturing stats disprove that first hypothesis. So nice job with the wooing, guys.

If you didn’t get in on the latest run up in stock price (ODFL soared more than 23% yesterday), I wouldn’t get into the stock just yet. Even with a great business plan, the potential for a fuel-price tipping point is still out there for Old Dominion’s profits. And I’d hold off until oil stablizes (even if that takes a year or more) before I put big money into any trucking company.

Disclosure: none