Freight transportation companies including Knight Transportation posted higher first-quarter results on improved volumes, and said the market was on track for a solid recovery.

“The operating environment grew increasingly positive during the first quarter 2010,” Knight’s Chief Executive Kevin Knight said. “We appear to be firmly in a recovering truckload freight market.”

Air cargo company Forward Air Corp and logistics provider Hub Group also reported strong results.

This follows a string of positive commentary and results from other freight transportation companies such as United Parcel Service , CSX Corp and JB Hunt Transport Services.

Forward Air, which swung to a quarterly profit, said the industry has entered a period of sustained recovery, and forecast second-quarter profit above Wall Street estimates.

Knight said it hauled 10.8 percent more loads this quarter and gained market share during the period.

The highly fragmented freight market in the United States has been in recession for about three years now. Excess capacity has put pressure on pricing and dented margins at truckers as well as freight brokers.

Knight, one of largest truckload carriers in the United States, reported net income of $12.3 million, or 15 cents a share, up from $11.7 million, or 14 cents a share, a year ago.

Knight, which also provides trucking brokerage services, posted a 11 percent rise in revenue at $165.7 million.

Greeneville, Tennessee-based Forward Air posted net income of $3.4 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with a loss of $3.1 million, or 11 cents a share, a year ago.

The company forecast a revenue growth of 13 percent to 18 percent.

It expects to benefit from general rate increase on the linehaul portion of its airport-to-airport network from May 1.

Hub Group posted net income of $8.7 million, or 23 cents a share, compared with $6.2 million, or 17 cents a share, a year ago.

Volumes at its intermodal segment jumped 16 percent. (Reuters)