- Workday Minnesota/YouTube
- Hundreds of trucking companies have folded in 2019.
- That has left thousands of truck drivers suddenly without a job.
- After a hugely profitable year in 2018, this year has seen retailers and manufacturers moving less, according to the Cass Freight Index.
- Sign up for Business Insider’s transportation newsletter, Shifting Gears, to get more stories like this in your inbox.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Truck drivers have been suffering in 2019 – especially those who own or work at small businesses.
Rates in the spot market, in which retailers and manufacturers buy trucking capacity as they need it rather than through a contract, sank by around 15% year-over-year in Aug. That has caused truckers like Demetrius Wilburn, a Georgia-based driver, to find themselves unemployed.
Wilburn bought his semitruck four years ago after years of working as a company truck driver. But amid rock-bottom rates, Wilburn wasn’t able to make a payment one month – and his truck was repossessed.
“I was only six months away from paying it off,” Wilburn told Business Insider. “I’m trying to transition back into law enforcement now – don’t want to ever drive trucks again. Definitely not worth it.”
The Lexington, Kentucky-based owner-operator Chad Boblett told Business Insider that some truck drivers were seeing a “bloodbath” in just how low rates had become.
In the first half of 2019, around 640 trucking companies went bankrupt, according to industry data from Broughton Capital LLC. That’s more than triple the amount of bankruptcies from the same period last year – 175.
Here are some of the larger trucking companies that have gone bankrupt in 2019, and how many truckers who are now out of a job. We used the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s company-snapshot tool to measure how many truck drivers worked at each company.
Are you a truck driver who has been suffering in 2019 from low rates? Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carney Trucking Company — 25 truck drivers
- Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
An Alabama-based trucking company that was founded in 1983 announced on July 31 that the operation was shutting down.
Owner David Carney told FreightWaves that the cost of insurance forced the company to shutter.
Starlite Trucking — 28 truck drivers
- David McNew/Getty Images
Starlite Trucking, which was in business for 40 years, announced on July 12 that the company was closing down. The company was based in Ceres, California – about 100 miles southeast of San Francisco – and mostly hauled livestock feed, nuts, and other products for the agricultural region.
CEO Colby Bell said in a statement on Facebook that the rising compliance costs of California regulations gutted the company – particularly as rates have stagnated.
“We tried to provide a healthy work environment for our employees and give them the best wages and benefits we could, but in the end, the rates that were available did not support the cost structure needed to compensate our employees appropriately,” Bell said.
ALA Trucking — 32 truck drivers
Effective June 26, the Anderson, Indiana-based trucking company ALA Trucking Inc. shut down after 31 years in operation. Along with 15 other employees, 41 truckers with ALA lost their jobs.
Terrill Transportation — 36 truck drivers
- Joel Page/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
A Bay Area-based trucking company called Terrill Transportation shuttered on July 30, FreightWaves reported.
Terrill Transportation was in business for around 25 years. It employed 36 truck drivers and moved dry goods, beverages, and refridgerated food, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration database.
West Tenn. Express — 37 truck drivers
- Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
West Tenn. Express is out of service and no longer operating, according to the FMCSA database. A source told Business Insider that the company went bankrupt.
The trucking company was based in Jackson, Tenn. and employed 37 truck drivers.
Williams Trucking — 48 truck drivers
- Scott Olson/Getty Images
The Alabama-based Williams Trucking abruptly shut down on May 1, telling its employees to finish up deliveries, bring their trucks back to the headquarters, and go home.
Ready Trucking — 91 truck drivers
- Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Ellenwood, Georgia-based trucking company Ready Trucking closed permanently on Aug. 30.
It was founded in 1968 and moved general freight, dry commodities, beverages, and paper products.
HVH Transportation — 324 truck drivers
- Chris Gardner/Getty Images
HVH Transportation shuttered on Aug. 28, leaving some 324 truck drivers out of work.
The company was founded in 1977 and was based in Denver, Colorado.
Cold Carriers — at least 396 drivers
Cold Carriers, a refrigerated trucking umbrella company, filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 27, Bloomberg Law reported.
The organization, described by FreightWaves as a “truckload roll-up” consildated by private equity firm KJM, said online that it has three large trucking companies based throughout the country. Those included Gantt (102 truckers), Sunco (159 truckers), and Interride (135 truckers).
But it’s not clear how many total truckers will be affected by the bankruptcy, which is allowing Cold Carriers to reorganize its debt obligations and continue operations. There are several other affiliates with Cold Carriers besides the three listed online, according to Bloomberg Law.
LME — 424 truck drivers
- Workday Minnesota/YouTube
On July 12, LME posted on its website that it was no longer accepting loads and was shutting down immediately. The company employed more than 400 truck drivers.
Based in New Brighton, Minnesota, LME was a less-than-truckload trucking company in the US. LTL is a type of trucking in which multiple shippers share truck space to ship packages.
Last month, a federal judge ordered the owners of LME to pay out $1.25 million to its former employees. LME’s owners ran a trucking company called Lakeville Motor Express that abruptly shuttered in 2016, leaving nearly 100 workers without back pay.
Stevens Tanker Division — 576 truck drivers
Stevens Tanker Division serves oilfields throughout the Southeast. It employs 576 truck drivers, and carries water, sand, and other oilfield equipment.
The company is part of Dallas-based Stevens Transport, one of the largest trucking companies in Texas.
Scott Mellman, Stevans Tanker Division executive vice president, told employees in a letter that the volatility of the oil and gas industry has forced the company to close (line breaks ours):
Since December 2018, the oil and gas industry has seen a steep decline in drilling and completions activity. The general decline in the industry has taken a terrible toll on Stevens Tanker Division.
Despite your great sacrifice and commitment, it is with deep regret that I must notify you that Stevens Tanker Division will cease all operations on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
This will be a permanent closure of all Stevens Tanker Division business in all locations and in all divisions.
The final decision to close was the result of unforseen business developments over which Stevens Tanker Division had no control, including a 65% reduction in sand orders starting on September 20, 2019 and continual loss of production water due to customers’ increased use of piping.
Falcon Transport — 585 truck drivers
More than 550 truck drivers at the Youngstown, Ohio-based Falcon Transport learned in late April that their employer was going under – effectively immediately.
CounterPoint Capital Partners, a Los Angeles-based investment firm, bought the 116-year-old company in 2017.
CounterPoint has not said why it shut down Falcon, but some speculate that the end of Youngstown’s General Motors plant, which shuttered in March, contributed to Falcon’s closing.
“It was like a bolt of lightning on a clear day and I wasn’t expecting that,” a Falcon trucker named Ed McCormick told WKBN, the local Youngstown CBS affiliate.
New England Motor Freight — 1,472 truck drivers
- Timmy Shigley/YouTube
On February 12, New England Motor Freight “stunned” the rest of the industry when it announced it was filing for bankruptcy and shutting down operations.
NEMF generated $402 million in revenue in 2017, ranking it as the 19th-largest less-than-truckload trucking company in the US. LTL is a type of trucking in which multiple shippers share a truck space to ship packages. It employed more than 1,300 truck drivers.
Thomas Connery, the president and chief operating officer of NEMF, told Business Insider that high labor costs and other costs of business in the trucking industry were the leading reasons for the company’s bankruptcy filing. “Excessive regulation, significant toll increases, and the high cost of insurance were also among contributing factors,” Connery said.
Celadon Group — 2,880 truck drivers
On December 8, Indianapolis-based Celadon Group filed for bankruptcy. The publicly traded company grossed $1 billion as recently as 2015.
“We have diligently explored all possible options to restructure Celadon and keep business operations ongoing. However, a number of legacy and market headwinds made this impossible to achieve,” CEO Paul Svindland said in a statement.
The abrupt shuttering left nearly 4,000 employees jobless.
On December 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged two former Celadon executives following a multiyear accounting scandal.
The news plunged Celadon’s stock to $0.41 a share the day after – a considerable tumble from the more than $20 a share that the stock was worth in 2015 before the accounting scandal became public knowledge.