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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

Can you say oversized load!

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That is big!

 

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Diesel prices all but stagnant nationwide, less than 2-cent shift anywhere

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The average price for a gallon of diesel nationwide fell by 0.7 cents for the week ending July 22, to currently stand at $3.044 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The lack of movement in diesel prices continues a pattern that has been going on for the past month. On June 24, diesel was at 3.042, with changes of less than 1.5 cents every week in between.

Though tiny, the movement in diesel prices was nearly unanimous this past week, down in all but one region of the country.  That one exception was the Rocky Mountain region, where diesel rose 0.3 cents, to $2.978. Year-to-date, diesel prices are lower in every region, with the Rocky Mountain region again being the standout, having the greatest difference, 39.1 cents from this time last year.

California made it a clean sweep for lower diesel prices year-to-date with a drop of 1.3 cents this past week, to $3.939, still by far the highest in the country, but 0.4 cents below this time last year.

Along the rest of the West Coast, diesel dropped 1.1 cents to $3.198, bringing the overall West Coast average to $3.611 per gallon.

The average along the East Coast is currently $3.072, with prices highest in the Central Atlantic, where diesel is going for $3.259 after a 1.3-cent drop. Diesel is $3.122 in New England following a decrease of 0.9 cents over the past week, while in the Lower Atlantic region diesel slipped by 0.4 cents to stand at $2.937 per gallon.

That’s still slightly better than the Midwest, where diesel is going for $2.948 per gallon after a drop of 0.8 cents. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast, the low-price leader in diesel, fell by the same 0.1 cent it gained the week before to stand at $2.804.

On Monday, increasing tensions between Iran and Western countries failed to produce a sharp reaction in the crude oil markets. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 98 cents, or 1.57%, to settle at $63.45 a barrel. U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate crude rose 59 cents, or 1.06%, to settle at $56.22 a barrel.

Click here for a complete list of average prices by region for the past three weeks.

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DOL opinion letter: Time in sleeper berth does not count as compensable time

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The Department of Labor says the time a truck driver spends in the sleeper berth is not compensable time. Pictured in the Peterbilt 579 UltraLoft sleeper berth. (Courtesy: PETERBILT MOTORS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor said Monday said it had determined that time spent in the sleeper berth by professional truck drivers while otherwise relieved from duty does not count as compensable time.

The DOL issued the determination in a written opinion letter by the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual person or entity that requested the letter.

The American Trucking Associations lauded the opinion.

“ATA welcomes Monday’s opinion letter from DOL Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton that concluded time spent by a commercial driver in the sleeper berth does not count as compensable hours under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, unless the driver is actually performing work or on call,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This opinion, which is consistent with decades-old DOL regulations, the weight of judicial authority, and the long understanding of the trucking industry, clears up confusion created by two recent court decisions that called the compensability of sleeper berth time into question.

Significantly, this opinion letter provides new guidance, the DOL said.

Under prior guidance, the DOL said WHD interpreted the relevant regulations to mean that while sleeping time may be excluded from hours worked where “adequate facilities” were furnished, only up to eight hours of sleeping time may be excluded in a trip 24 hours or longer, and no sleeping time may be excluded for trips under 24 hours.

“WHD has now concluded that this interpretation is unnecessarily burdensome for employers and instead adopts a straightforward reading of the plain language of the applicable regulation, under which the time drivers are relieved of all duties and permitted to sleep in a sleeper berth is presumptively non-working time that is not compensable,” the opinion letter said. “There may be circumstances, however, where a driver who retires to a sleeping berth is unable to use the time effectively for his or her own purposes. For example, a driver who is required to remain on call or do paperwork in the sleeping berth may be unable to effectively sleep or engage in personal activities; in such cases, the time is compensable hours worked.”

The ATA commended Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella and Stanton for adopting a straightforward, plain-language reading of the law, rather than the burdensome alternative interpretation embraced by those outlier decisions.

“ATA also commends the department for making guidance like this available through opinion letters, which provide an opportunity for stakeholders to better understand their compliance obligations prospectively, rather than settling such matters only after the fact, through costly and wasteful litigation,” Spear said.

 

 

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