Gross profit increased 47.0% to $35.1 million from $23.9 million in the first quarter of 2010. Gross margin was 26.0% for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 as compared to 20.8% for the quarter ended March 31, 2010. In comparison to a year ago, the higher gross margin in the first quarter 2011 was largely the result of improved rental gross margins.
On a segment basis, gross margin on rentals increased to 35.4% from 21.7% in the first quarter of 2010. On average, rental rates were 1.1% lower than rates in the first quarter of 2010. However, average rental rates for the month of March improved 1.1% compared to March of last year. Time utilization (based on units available for rent) was 61.0% in the first quarter of 2011 as compared to 49.7% a year ago.
Gross margins on new equipment sales were 10.8% compared to 8.7% in the first quarter a year ago. Gross margins on used equipment sales were 25.1% compared to 20.0% a year ago. Gross margins on parts sales were 26.6% in the first quarter of 2011 and 27.4% last year. Gross margins on service revenues were 61.1% for the first quarter of 2011 compared to 61.9% in the first quarter of 2010.
At the end of the first quarter of 2011, the original acquisition cost of the company's rental fleet was $699.7 million, an increase of $39.7 million from $660.0 million at the end of the first quarter of 2010. Dollar utilization was 27.9% compared to 22.0% for the first quarter of 2010. Dollar returns improved reflecting higher time utilization as discussed above.
SG&A expenses for the first quarter of 2011 were $38.1 million compared with $35.9 million last year, a $2.2 million, or 6.2% increase. SG&A expenses in the first quarter of 2011 declined as a percentage of total revenues to 28.2% as compared to 31.3% last year. The increase in SG&A expenses was primarily attributable to higher commission and incentive pay on higher revenues and an increase in employee headcount.
Loss from operations for the first quarter of 2011 was $2.9 million, or 2.1% of revenues, compared with loss from operations of $11.9 million, or 10.4% of revenues, a year ago.
Interest expense for the first quarter of 2011 was $7.2 million compared with $7.3 million a year ago.
Net loss was $6.5 million, or ($0.19) per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2011 compared to a net loss of $12.1 million, or ($0.35) per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2010.
EBITDA for the first quarter of 2011 increased $10.3 million to $21.3 million from $11.0 million in the first quarter of 2010. EBITDA as a percentage of revenues was 15.8% compared with 9.6% in the first quarter of 2010.
This press release contains certain Non-GAAP measures. Please refer to the H&E Current Report on Form 8-K for a description of of these measures. These measures as calculated by the company are not necessarily comparable to similarly titled measures reported by other companies. Additionally, these Non-GAAP measures are not measurements of financial performance or liquidity under GAAP and should not be considered as alternatives to the company's other financial information determined under GAAP.
H&E Equipment Services is one of the largest integrated equipment services companies in the United States with 67 full-service facilities throughout the West Coast, Intermountain, Southwest, Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the United States. The company is focused on heavy construction and industrial equipment and rents, sells and provides parts and service support for four core categories of specialized equipment: (1) hi-lift or aerial platform equipment; (2) cranes; (3) earthmoving equipment; and (4) industrial lift trucks.