Trucking Co. Closes; Fires 15,500

Tue Sep 3,12:57 PM ET

By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

SEATTLE (AP) - Consolidated Freightways, one of the nation's largest trucking companies, decided to shut down its U.S. operations after 73 years, saying on Labor Day that about 15,500 workers would lose their jobs.

Hundreds showed up for work on the holiday only to find the offices locked, according to a union spokesman, who called it "a slap in the face."

"That's like telling your wife you're getting divorced on Valentine's Day," said Carlos N. Ramos, Teamsters Local 776 spokesman in Harrisburg, Pa.

The company said it would stop U.S. operations immediately. Operations of the company's CF AirFreight and Canadian Freightways Ltd. subsidiaries were not affected.

Analysts said the abrupt closure of Consolidated, which had revenue of $2.2 billion in 2001 and controlled about 15 percent of the domestic long-haul trucking market, could produce short-term turbulence for some of its largest customers, which include Home Depot, the U.S. Postal Service and General Electric.

"It will cause some disruption for a couple of days or so," said Thomas Albrecht, a trucking analyst at BB&T Capital Markets. "But these companies have other carriers that they use and will shift some business to them. They'll also invite new carriers into the fold."

In a recorded telephone message, Chief Executive John Brincko had told workers at the trucking company not to show up Tuesday.

"Thank you for dialing in on this holiday weekend. I hope you and your family are enjoying the time together," said Brincko, who was named chief executive three months ago. "I have some extremely urgent and sad news to share with you today. ... Your employment ends immediately."

About 15,500 employees would be affected, the company said, with more than 80 percent receiving termination notices immediately. The remaining supervisory and management positions will be phased out quickly.

The company said it planned to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday.

The Vancouver, Wash.-based company lost $36.5 million on $463 million in revenue in the first quarter of this year. It lost $104.3 million last year and $7.6 million in 2000.

Its stock had tumbled in the past two weeks, after it announced it might lose its listing on the Nasdaq stock market.

In letters being mailed to workers, the company said it simply didn't have enough money to continue operations.

"We expected that recent discussions with our banks, other lenders and real estate investors would enable us to obtain significant additional financial resources," the letters said. "Unfortunately, this has not been the case."

Bret Caldwell, a Teamsters spokesman in Washington, D.C., said Consolidated had faced "some serious management challenges over the past several years." He said Brincko was "trying to turn the ship around, but he was just brought in too late to have the real impact he could have had."

Driver Charles A. Perrin, 57, of Sturgis, Mich., said the closing did not surprise him because the company had told workers of its financial problems.

"I wasn't thinking anything good about it," said Perrin, who works at a terminal in Elkhart, Ind. "A lot of others were hoping it would be different."

Consolidated Freightways billed itself at the nation's third-largest "less-than-truckload" carrier. It took partial shipments from multiple companies, loaded them together and trucked them throughout North America.

It has 350 terminals and 30,000 trucks in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The company's stock traded on the Nasdaq stock market at more than $18 in early 1999, but closed at just 71 cents Friday.

The country's largest less-than-truckload carrier is Yellow Corp. of Overland Park, Kan., followed by Roadway Corp. of Akron, Ohio.


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