November 6, 2017 / 9:48 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-Trucker Knight-Swift's 3rd-qtr profit falls on merger costs

(Adds details on driver shortage, expected synergies)

By Eric M. Johnson

Nov 6 (Reuters) - Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc , the largest full truckload carrier in North America, posted a lower quarterly profit on Monday due to costs associated with its recent merger and a growing driver shortage in the industry.

In its first quarterly earnings report since Swift Transportation Co and Knight Transportation Inc merged this year, the company reported third-quarter earnings of $3.9 million, or $0.04 per diluted share, down from $23.7 million, or $0.29 per diluted share in the year-ago period.

Adjusting for one-time items, the Phoenix, Arizona-based company reported earnings per share of $0.25. It reported total quarterly revenue of $521.6 million versus $280.5 million in the year-ago period.

Wall Street analysts expected earnings of $0.28 per share and revenue of $534.2 million.

Management said Knight's revenue for brokerage services rose 11.5 percent and revenue per loaded mile increased 4.6 percent, driven by a stronger freight environment for the third quarter.

Knight-Swift also said it faced headwinds from a driver shortage in the industry that has forced it to raise pay, schedule shorter freight trips and other disruptions.

"Against the stronger freight environment, our tractor utilization was challenged by a very competitive driver recruiting market, a shorter length of haul and other network disruptions," Chief Executive Dave Jackson said in a statement.

Knight-Swift reiterated its post-merger synergies of $15 million by end of 2017, increasing to $100 million for 2018 and $150 million in 2019. (Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; editing by Dan Grebler and Susan Thomas)

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