Truckload carrier M.S. Carriers Inc. said it expects to fall significantly short of its consensus earnings estimate for the first quarter of 2001.

The company said it believes the consensus estimate will be 19-cents per share for the quarter, which ends March 31.

"We are experiencing the same economic slowdown that is impacting the truckload industry,” said Mike Starnes, chairman and CEO of M.S. Carriers. “Softness in the freight markets which we serve is limiting our revenue per unit through lower equipment use and a greater percentage of non-revenue miles.”

Starnes said the company is progressing with the planned merger with Swift Transportation, which is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.