As problems go, Heartland Express's (NASDAQ:HTLD) collection of challenges could certainly be worse. Long one of the best-run truckload operators out there, Heartland runs an exceptionally tight ship. This company's history of tight cost control, relentless efficiency, and high standards for driver performance has led to excellent operating ratios, good asset turnover, and strong operational metrics, which have in turn translated into good cash flows and excellent returns on capital.
The problem for shareholders, though, is that this already-excellent company doesn't have a lot of levers to pull to do meaningfully better. An improving trucking market will certainly help, but it likely won't help Heartland as much as other operators and the company still has some distance to go before returning to the sort of margins it generated before the Gordon deal (if that is even possible). Heartland does look reasonably valued on an EBITDA basis, though, and in this market "reasonably valued" is often about the best you can find.
Heartland Express Has Some Blockages When It Comes To Growth