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2nd flatbed carrier in less than a week shuts down suddenly, leaving questions

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Small businesses go belly up all the time.  On Wednesday, when Dothan, Alabama-based flatbed carrier Williams Trucking, LLC suddenly announced to its workers that the company is going out of business and that they should stop what they’re doing and bring their trucks and trailers back to the terminal, few people not directly affected might have taken notice.

But the fact that the manner which the sudden shuttering occurred seemed to echo what happened just days earlier with a large flatbed carrier makes the move by the smaller carrier much more noticeable.

According to reports by Dothan-area TV stations, employees received a memo timestamped 6:14 a.m. Central Time telling them that the company was closing and drivers were to return to company terminal immediately.

The memo read, in part:

“…Clean all the stuff of out your truck and have someone pick you up. As long as everthing goes smooth (all paperwork turned in, and all your equipment turned in, all your equipment there, and no issues) you will be paid for all your miles. We are closing down…”

Local ABC-TV affiliate station WDHN aired part of a conversation with an unnamed driver who said he’d been with the company nearly seven years. He was among those already on the road when he got the memo.

“Got that message and listened to it, and I had to pull over and make sure what I was listening to,” the driver said.

The driver went on to say that three weeks earlier, when an office employee suddenly quit, a fellow employee had asked management whether there was any danger that the company may be closing and had been told “absolutely not.”

The scenario in Alabama is curiously similar to what happened just four days earlier in Youngstown, Ohio, when Falcon Transport, one of the largest flatbed carriers in the nation, caught its employees by surprise when it sent out a notice stating:

“We regret to inform you that Falcon Transport is not able to continue operations and will be shutting down effective today. Please stop any work you are doing for the company effective immediately. You are not expected to return to work. Please be on the lookout for further information we will be sending regarding this situation.”

After that message was sent out, many Falcon drivers found their fuel cards had been deactivated, and many had to improvise how to get home from wherever they were stranded across the country.

Another similarity between the two is there is yet to be a definitive explanation from anyone affiliate with either company as to why they shut down, and why the closures occurred without warning, even to their own employees.

Along with both being flatbed carriers and the manner in which they folded, Falcon and Williams also both began as small family businesses. Falcon was “founded in 1903 with a single horse and wagon,” while John and Wanda Knopp started Williams with a single truck in 1994.

But Falcon was family owned and operated for four generations before being purchased by a Los-Angeles-based equity firm two years ago. The company had grown to an operation with more than 600 employees.

Several of those employees have joined in a class-action suit seeking 60 days of pay and Employee Retirement Income Security Act benefits, under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN, act, requiring employers to gives employees 60 days’ notice before closings or mass layoffs.

Such recourse may not be available for former Williams employees. The WARN Act only applies to companies with 100 or more employees. According to the company website, Williams had 20 company trucks and 14 owner-operators. A government filing stated the company having 48 drivers in its employ.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gregory Brown

    May 8, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    Why didn’t the remaining trucking companies step in to help the drivers who were stranded by the Now defunct Falcon transport company closed down ???

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The Nation

Lane Departures: Why would California lawmakers saddle trucking with the ABC test?

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Well, he said he’d do it.

If you look elsewhere on this website, you’ll see a story I did about a week ago about AB5, a bill passed by the California Senate on September 10 into the waiting arms of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had long telegraphed he was looking forward to signing it.

Yesterday, he did it. And come the new year, trucking is going to have to live with it.

AB5 — the full name is the “Employees and Independent Contractors” bill — is ostensibly intended to prevent employers from exploiting workers and skirting expenses by relying on “independent contractors” to make their businesses run instead of hiring full-fledged employees, who come with all kinds of nasty baggage like guaranteed minimum wages, overtime and payroll taxes, mandatory breaks, insurance and other horrific profit reducers.

The bill got off the ground in the wake of a court case last year in which a delivery company called Dynamex was determined to have improperly reclassified its workers as independent contractors in order to save money.  In making the decision, the court applied what is known as the ABC test, which presumes all workers should be classified as employees unless they meet three criteria.

Like the court case, the bill, which will codify the ABC test across the state, seems to have been at least in spirit aimed at companies like Dynamex that are part of that there so-called “gig economy” all the young folks are so hopped up about. Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft are almost always mentioned as Public Enemies 1A and 1B of supposed independent contractor charlatans.

The problem with AB5, its critics say, is it proposes to perform an appendectomy with a chainsaw, ripping into industries that have long-established business models that extensively use independent contractors to the satisfaction of all involved.

A great big example would be trucking, because it appears the ABC test would prevent carriers from contracting with owner-operators or smaller fleets in California. I’ll let you imagine the consequences if that’s true.

If you’ve read the article, or your planning to read the article, I’d like to apologize in advance because as I’ve been learning about this AB5 business, I have some lingering questions that I could not answer. I have calls out to a couple of experts on the legal and logistical nuances. Unfortunately, experts don’t observe journalistic deadlines.

But then, I figured, this story is going to be around a while, so we can keep building on what we know. I may have answers to some of these questions by the time you read this. Or maybe you will be able to provide some of the answers. I mean, you don’t need to have a title or a degree or be part of a think tank to know a thing or two.

My first question is this: They didn’t pull this ABC test out of thin air. A majority of states already use the test in some manner on matters of job status. California’s application of ABC is based on Massachusetts’ broad, strict use of the test. So, hasn’t trucking had to contend with this standard there and in in other states already? I haven’t heard reports of empty store shelves in Massachusetts. Is there some simple workaround already in existence just waiting for cooler heads to prevail?

Second, from what I gather, ABC has had its critics for as long as it’s existed. Is it just the sheer size of California’s economy that makes this case so important or somehow different?

I’m going to go way out on a limb and say “probably.” Last year, California’s economy outgrew that of Great Britain. If it were an independent country, California would have the fifth-largest economy in the world. And what happens in California rarely stays in California. The state has a major influence on the rest of the nation.

California’s economy is closing in on $3 trillion a year. Real estate, finance, the entertainment industry and that nest of tech behemoths in Silicon Valley are responsible for big chunks of that.

And let’s not forget agriculture. California ranches and farms reaped $50 billion in receipts in 2017. That’s a lot of food, a lot of truckloads.

California also has some of the nation’s largest seaports. The Port of Long Beach alone sees about $200 billion in cargo a year, with 11,000 truckloads leaving the port each day. And most of what doesn’t go by truck from there eventually winds up on a truck somewhere inland.

Add it all up, and trucking is a huge player in the California economic machine. Why would lawmakers want to strip its gears with this law? Some lawmakers are even on record saying they are worried about what this could do to the industry. Then why are they doing it?

The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, is not some gung-ho rookie lawmaker. She’s in her third term, and she already has made a national name for herself as a champion of the working class with several pieces of legislation she has supported.

AB5 could fit into that collection quite nicely. But it isn’t a trophy she needs in a hurry. She won her last two reelection campaigns by about a 3-1 margin.

And she’s also been around enough that she surely understands that despite its best intentions, the broad-stroke, one-size-fits-all approach AB5 takes will do more harm than good to many industries, including trucking.

In fact, she’s as much as said so. Gonzalez has already indicated that once the bill becomes law, she’d be open to making amendments and granting exemptions.

So why wait? The bill already grants exemptions to real estate, to doctors and dentists. Even newspaper delivery people got a last-minute, one-year exemption.

The California Trucking Association and the Western States Trucking Association pushed for an exemption. Dozens of truck drivers testified in Sacramento. And you have to think state legislators are at least vaguely aware of what goes on in their own districts.

So, they could grasp the importance of the guy who throws a newspaper in their driveway from a passing car at 4 a.m., but not of the people who deliver, like, everything everywhere all the time?

We all know how long fixing bad legislation can take. Even if they put it on the “fast track,” how much damage will occur before trucking can get an exemption?

I did hear back from one legal expert on the matter. Greg Feary, president and managing partner at Scopelitus, Garvin, Light, Hansen and Feary LLC, said there are a couple of cases in Ninth Circuit Court that could spell relief for the trucking industry. Even so, the legal system can move almost as slowly as the legislative system. He estimates California truckers are going to have to live with AB5 for at least a year.

Questions abound. I’m not looking forward to some of the answers.

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The Nation

Trucking submarine style in Texas

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Texas is getting hit hard with flooding.  This takes it to new levels!


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Flooding in Texas – That cab’s gonna be a bit damp!

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KHOU reporter Melissa Correa happened to be on scene and captured this video.  Another motorist grabbed a hammer and rope and saved the drivers life.

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