Arrow drivers stranded
BY D.R. STEWART World Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
4/19/10 at 2:22 PM
Arrow Trucking Co., the 61-year-old Tulsa-based flatbed carrier, has suspended operations indefinitely, laying off employees and stranding scores of drivers around the country by canceling fuel credit cards, company employees and drivers said.
After closing down the company phone system Tuesday morning and not accepting cell phone messages throughout the day, the company issued a statement from CEO Doug Pielsticker at 6:21 p.m.
"The company has been in negotiations with its principal lender," Pielsticker said. "Those negotiations are continuing, but the lender has elected to proceed with securing its collateral. The company is communicating with several interested parties and continues to seek a prompt resolution."
One of Arrow's lenders is Daimler Financial Services, which owns the company's Freightliner trucks.
Beginning just before noon Tuesday, callers to Arrow's west Tulsa offices were greeted with a recorded message: "Drivers, if you're in Freightliner KW, please take your truck to the nearest Freightliner shop. Call this hot line number to Daimler, (877) 294-9679. They will arrange for you a bus ticket home."
A spokesman for Daimler said the company is offering stranded drivers a bus ticket home or $200 in cash.
But many drivers didn't have enough gas to make it to a Freightliner shop, Tulsa or even their next delivery.
"I'm shut down near Cheyenne, Wyo.," Arrow driver Denny Carter said by phone. "They asked me to bring the truck and load into Tulsa, but I don't have fuel to do it. I'll be taking the truck to a Kenworth dealership in Cheyenne."
Employees at Arrow's corporate offices at 4230 S. Elwood Ave. were told by senior executives to clean out their desks and go home just after 8 a.m. Tuesday.
"This may be about the only phone at the company that's working," said a female employee who did not wish to be identified.
"We've been told to pack up and go home. The building is clearing out. We'll know within 24 hours if it's permanent. We don't know what's going on."
Doreen Slone, whose son manages a crew of Arrow drivers, said rumors have been circulating for some time about the company's financial issues. Her son's last paycheck bounced, Slone said.
"They're all saying, "What do we do, and when do we get our money?' " she said.
Arrow drivers from North Carolina to Arizona were asking the same thing.
"I haven't heard nothing and haven't been able to get ahold of anybody," driver Ruben Bradley said by phone. He shut down his rig at a truck stop in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Monday night when other drivers phoned to tell him their gas credit cards weren't working.
Bradley was hauling a load of steel pipe for delivery in northern New Mexico. He had three-quarters of a 240-gallon tank of diesel fuel he thought would take him to his delivery but not enough to return the truck to a terminal or Tulsa.
And with no working fuel card, he didn't have $500 to $600 of his own money to fill the tank.
"I'm not going to move the truck. I'm not going to get stuck way out in New Mexico without fuel and no way to get home," Bradley said. "I can't get ahold of anybody, not even extended operations or the fuel desk."
Doug Evans was in similar straits early Tuesday.
"I'm not in a very good mood," the Arrow driver said by phone, his fuel gauge at a quarter tank as he motored west toward Little Rock with a load of steel tubing.
"I'm fixing to be out of fuel. I can't get any answers. I got a message to take the truck to the nearest Freightliner dealer. We haven't gotten any paychecks, either."
The trucking industry has been battered by a combination of high diesel fuel prices and an economic downturn that is unprecedented, industry executives said.
"It's the worst I've seen since I got in the industry in 1977," said Dan Case, executive director of the Oklahoma Trucking Association. "Right now, one out of eight trucking lines is thinking of quitting business. In the last 12 months, there has been a 20 percent drop in general freight."
Clayton Boyce, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, said competition is fierce among the operators of the 2.8 million Class 8 (tractor-trailer) trucks in the United States.
"In many cases, trucking companies are accepting hauls at too low a rate to pass on the increased cost of fuel," Boyce said.
By Tuesday evening, Bradley was driving south to a Freightliner dealer and a new job he'd just been offered in Houston. He had just enough fuel to make it, he said.
Evans, whose load was bound for Houston, had run out of fuel. He was parked in a truck stop 60 miles east of Little Rock.
"I'm waiting for somebody to send me some money — Western Union so I can get enough fuel to get the truck to the Freightliner dealer in Little Rock," Evans said. "And then I'm going to have to walk home to Monroe, La. There are seven drivers I know about — from North Carolina to Arizona — who are walking home."
Carter, who was stranded in Cheyenne, almost 2,000 miles from his home in O'Brien, Fla., was nearly alone among the drivers in that he will have a merry Christmas.
"Friends out here, people I met on the road, pooled together and bought me an airplane ticket home," he said.
"I'm flying Cheyenne to Gainesville on Wednesday."
Arrow Trucking Co.
Flatbed and dry-van carrier
Corporate offices: 4230 S. Elwood Ave.
Annual revenue: $250 million
Sources: Arrow Trucking Co., Oklahoma
Trucking company bankruptcies
(five trucks or more):
2009 (first three quarters):
Source: American Trucking Associations
, Avondale Partners
D.R. Stewart 581-8451
A man wipes his brow while walking past an Arrow Trucking Co. tractor Tuesday morning. The company told workers to pack their belongings and go home, employees said. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Roy, an employee from Arrow Trucking Co. who declined to give his last name, loads a box of paperwork from the cab of a truck Tuesday morning. The company told workers to pack their belongings and go home, employees said. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Roy, the Arrow employee who declined to give his last name, retrieves personal equipment Tuesday morning. The Tulsa-based trucking company has suspended operations indefinitely, laying off employees and canceling fuel credit cards used by drivers. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World