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ABF's Parent Reports a 116% Increase in Fourth Quarter Earnings per Share and Record 1998 Profits

(Fort Smith, Arkansas, January 22, 1999) -- Arkansas Best Corporation (Nasdaq: ABFS) today announced net income for the 1998 fourth quarter of $9.6 million, or $0.41 per share (diluted), representing a 116% increase in earnings per share over 1997 fourth quarter net income of $4.9 million, or $0.19 per share (diluted). For the full year of 1998, the company reported record net income of $28.7 million, or $1.21 per share (diluted), versus income from continuing operations of $21.0 million, or $0.84 per share (diluted), for 1997.

"We are pleased with Arkansas Best's 1998 results which reflect the largest net income in the company's history," said Robert A. Young, III, Arkansas Best President and Chief Executive Officer. "ABF had another outstanding year with an operating ratio of 94.2%. The employees of ABF are to be commended for improving on last year's outstanding results while continuing to lead the longhaul, LTL industry in profitability."

ABF Freight System, Inc.

ABF reported a fourth quarter operating ratio of 93.4% compared to a 95.3% operating ratio for the fourth quarter of 1997. "A two point operating improvement during the fourth quarter, which includes periods of slow business due to the holiday season, is impressive," said Mr. Young. ABF's operating income for the quarter was $19.6 million, a 43.0% increase over the same period last year. Fourth quarter 1998 LTL revenue per hundredweight was $18.46, an increase of 3.2% over fourth quarter 1997. "The rate environment remained firm during the quarter as it has all year," said Mr. Young. Tonnage for the fourth quarter of 1998 was flat when compared to the same period a year ago. When adjusted for differences brought on by the 1998 Fourth of July holiday falling on the weekend and for an estimate of the additional business handled during the August 1997 UPS strike, ABF's total tonnage per day for the full year of 1998 declined 1.2% when compared to 1997. This year-to-year tonnage change consists of a 1.2% decrease in LTL tonnage and a 1.0% decrease in truckload tonnage. The productivity of ABF's workforce remained at the levels achieved in the first three quarters of the year.

"ABF produced another solid quarter of profitability that significantly exceeded outside expectations despite foregoing the fall rate increase put in place by many of its competitors. ABF stood by its earlier customer commitment of not implementing a rate increase prior to the end of the year and we are pleased to see that margins remained strong. ABF's outlook for 1999 remains positive," said Mr. Young.

. . .

The foregoing release contains forward-looking statements that are based on current expectations and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties. Actual results could differ materially from current expectations due to a number of factors, including general economic conditions; competitive initiatives and pricing pressures; union relations; availability and cost of capital; shifts in market demand; weather conditions; the performance and needs of industries served by Arkansas Best's businesses; actual future costs of operating expenses such as fuel and related taxes; self-insurance claims and employee wages and benefits; actual costs of continuing investments in technology; and the timing and amount of capital expenditures.

    ABF FREIGHT SYSTEM, INC.
    FINANCIAL INFORMATION
    FOR THE QUARTER AND YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 1998

                             Fourth Quarter                Year Ended
                       1998      1997  %Change     1998        1997    %Change

      Operating
       Revenue(A)  $ 298,130  $ 290,999  2.5%  $1,175,213  $ 1,154,252   1.8%

      Operating
       Income(A)    $ 19,592   $ 13,701  ---     $ 67,608      $62,577    ---

      Operating
       Ratio            93.4%      95.3% ---         94.2%        94.6%   ---

                                        Fourth Quarter
                                1998          1997          %Change

    Revenue(A)
      LTL                   $ 268,740       $261,670          2.7 %
      TL                       29,390         29,329          0.2 %
      Total                 $ 298,130       $290,999          2.5 %

    Tonnage (tons)(A)
      LTL                     728,005        731,456         (0.5)%
      TL                      198,181        197,341          0.4 %
      Total                   926,186        928,797         (0.3)%

    Shipments
      LTL                   1,449,779      1,440,919          0.6 %
      TL                       24,361         24,428         (0.3)%
      Total                 1,474,140      1,465,347          0.6 %

    Revenue/CWT
      LTL                     $ 18.46        $ 17.89          3.2 %
      TL                         7.41           7.43         (0.2)%
      Total                     16.09          15.67          2.7 %

    Revenue/Shipment
      Total                  $ 202.24       $ 198.59          1.8 %

    Cost/Shipment
      Total                  $ 188.95       $ 189.24         (0.2)%

                                             Year Ended
                                1998           1997           %Change

    Revenue(A)
      LTL                    $1,064,063    $ 1,042,095           2.1 %
      TL                        111,150        112,157          (0.9)%
      Total                   1,175,213      1,154,252           1.8 %

    Tonnage (tons)(A)
      LTL                     2,908,302      2,952,332    (B)   (1.5)%
      TL                        753,354        761,112          (1.0)%
      Total                   3,661,656      3,713,444    (B)   (1.4)%

    Shipments
      LTL                     5,758,795      5,927,497          (2.8)%
      TL                         93,950         95,090          (1.2)%
      Total                   5,852,745      6,022,587          (2.8)%

    Revenue/CWT
      LTL                       $ 18.29        $ 17.65           3.7 %
      TL                           7.38           7.37           0.1 %
      Total                       16.05          15.54           3.3 %

    Revenue/Shipment
      Total                     $200.80        $191.65           4.8 %

    Cost/Shipment
      Total                     $189.25        $181.26           4.4 %

    Note (A): Values are rounded to thousands ($000).
    Note (B): 1997 tonnage figures include freight received during the August
              UPS strike.

    There were 62 workdays in the fourth quarter of 1998 and the fourth
    quarter of 1997.
    There were 253 workdays in 1998 due to customers' observance of the July
    4th holiday and 253 workdays in 1997.

    Includes U.S., Canadian and Puerto Rican operations of ABF affiliates.
CONTACT: David E. Loeffler, Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, 501-785-6157, or  David Humphrey, Director of Investor Relations, 501-785-6200, both of Arkansas Best Corporation