Wabash National Corporation (NYSE: WNC) generated positive operating Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) of $600,000 in the third quarter—the first time in two years it had done that in a quarter.

On a non-GAAP basis, that $600,000 was better than the second quarter of 2010 by approximately $1.1 million on approximately 1,400 additional new trailer shipments.

Wabash reported year-over-year improvements across nearly all financial and operating metrics, with an operating loss of $4.2 million for the third quarter of 2010, compared to an operating loss of $10.2 million for the same period in 2009, and an operating loss of $21.2 million for the nine months ending September 30, compared to $54.2 million a year ago.

The improvement in operating loss of $6 million and $33 million for the three- and nine-month periods, respectively, resulted from higher production volumes, as well as cost and manufacturing optimization enhancements implemented by the company throughout 2008 and 2009.

“While much remains to be done, we are pleased to deliver significant year-over-year improvement in our operating results for the fourth consecutive quarter,” said Dick Giromini, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We continued to improve gross margins during the quarter. Additionally, new order activity remained strong throughout the third quarter, which is typically a seasonally lower order period. As a result, we entered the fourth quarter with a healthy backlog of $334 million as of September 30, up from $137 million at year-end, and $96 million at the end of the third quarter of 2009. During the first month of the fourth quarter, quote and order activity strengthened further and we are encouraged by the continued momentum of trailer demand and fleet activity.”

“While new trailer shipments of 6,800 units for the third quarter were slightly below our guidance of 7,000 to 8,000 units, customer orders and production during the quarter supported sales near the high-end of our estimate. The disconnect between trailer production and shipments will correct itself throughout the current quarter as customers have now adjusted to our higher daily build rates. Our projection of new trailer shipments for the year of 23,000 to 25,000 units remains unchanged, which equates to an expectation of fourth quarter shipments of 8,000 to 10,000 units.”

The company reported a net loss of $1.9 million and $0.03 per diluted share for the third quarter of 2010 on net sales of $171 million. For the same quarter last year, the company reported a net loss of $66.4 million, or $2.23 per diluted share, on net sales of $88 million. Third-quarter new trailer sales totaled 6,800 units, an increase of 3,200 units from the prior year period.