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TA Restaurant Group opening Black Bear Diner at Kingman, Arizona, TA

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Black Bear Diner offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served 24 hours a day. (Courtesy: BLACK BEAR DINER)

WESTLAKE, Ohio — The TA Restaurant Group, a division of TravelCenters of America, is opening a Black Bear Diner at the TA travel center in Kingman, Arizona, off Interstate 40 at Exit 48. Black Bear Diner was recognized in Nation’s Restaurant News 2017 and Nation’s Restaurant News 2018 as one of the fastest growing private restaurant chains in the United States.

The full-service dining concept offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served 24 hours a day.

“We’ve been thrilled with the popularity and success of the Black Bear Diners among our customers and are happy to add yet another to our restaurant group,” said John Ponczoch, senior vice president, TA Restaurant Group. “We strive to provide a ‘home away from home’ experience for all our customers and these restaurants provide a dining option that is unique and welcoming, with the comforts of home.”

“We are extremely pleased with the TA Restaurant Group’s opening in Kingman, Arizona, their fourth franchised Black Bear Diner,” said Bruce Dean, co-founder and chief executive officer of Black Bear Diner. “As an experienced and successful operator with thriving Black Bear Diners in Wheeler Ridge, California, Barstow, California, and in Beaumont, Texas, we look forward to the continued growth of this important franchise partnership.”

All Black Bear Diner restaurants offer a bear-themed atmosphere and are designed to remind guests that quality and service are key ingredients to every meal, Dean said. The restaurant is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and has seating for approximately 150 people.

This is the fourth Black Bear Diner in the TA travel center network.

TravelCenters of America is the nation’s largest publicly traded full-service travel center network. Founded in 1972 and headquartered in Westlake, Ohio, its more than 21,000 employees serve customers in over 260 locations in 44 states and Canada, principally under the TA, Petro Stopping Centers and TA Express brands.

For more information, visit www.ta-petro.com.

Founded in Mt. Shasta, California, in 1995, Black Bear Diner now operates 135 locations in 13 states and growing. country. For a full menu and additional information, please visit www.blackbeardiner.com.

 

Wheeler Ridge, California

Barstow, California

Beaumont, Texas

 

 

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The Nation

Lack of reauthorization could imperit future transportation spending

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Jim Tymon, third from left at desk, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said current funding challenges demand bold action to invest in the U.S. transportation infrastructure. (Courtesy: HOUSE T & I REPUBLICANS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. transportation infrastructure market is expected to grow at least 5% next year, according to an annual economic forecast released December 4 by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

However, that growth could evaporate if surface transportation funding legislation is not reauthorized in a timely fashion.

“The real market growth for 2020 is being fueled by increased transportation investments from federal, state and local governments,” said ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black in a statement published in the Journal, the official publication of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Yet she added that a major “variable” in that outlook is reauthorization of the Fixing American’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act funding law, due to expire in September 2020, and the ability of Congress to find additional revenues to support the Highway Trust Fund.

“Any project delays because states are concerned about whether the next federal surface transportation bill is completed in a timely matter could temper 2020 market growth,” Black said.

Jim Tymon, AASHTO executive director, expressed that same concern in testimony in a House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure joint subcommittee hearing on December 5.

“We need to enact a long-term, sustainable revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund,” he said. “Our current funding challenges demand bold action to invest in our transportation infrastructure. This action has the clear support of the American public, and it is time for the President and Congress to make it happen.”

At risk is the potential for significant growth in transportation infrastructure spending, ARTBA’s Black said.

She said total domestic transportation construction and related-market activity in 2020 should reach $300.4 billion, up from $286.5 billion in 2019, after adjusting for project costs and inflation.

Black added that the transportation construction market grew by 8% in 2019 compared to 2018, driven largely by gains in highway, street, and pavement work.

ARTBA projects that the “real value” of public highway, street and related construction investment by state transportation departments and local governments is expected to increase by 6% to $77.5 billion in 2020 after growing 15 percent in 2019.

Construction work on private highways, bridges, parking lots, and driveways will increase from $69.1 billion in 2019 to $71.8 billion in 2020 and will continue to grow over the next five years as market activity increases in those sectors, ARTBA’s Black said.

She noted that the pace of bridge and tunnel construction work stayed flat in 2019 and is forecast to grow by $800 million, or 3%, in 2020.  By contrast, public transit and rail construction are expected to grow by 5% to $24.2 billion in 2020, up from $23 billion in 2019. ARTBA added that subway and light rail investments are expected to set a record in 2020, topping $11 billion compared to $10.3 billion this year.

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The Nation

Report seeks ‘individualized justice approach to target impaired drivers

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A high-risk impaired driver is a person who lacks the restraint or self-control to resist driving impaired. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON — Even as the nation’s roadways are becoming safer, impaired driving remains a major highway safety problem nationwide

A new report released Monday by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) in partnership with Responsibility.org calls for a systemic and holistic approach to high-risk impaired drivers that focuses on the individual and the need to treat the underlying problem prompting the unsafe behavior.

The spotlight report, High-Risk Impaired Drivers: Combating a Critical Threat, seeks to help State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) and their partners effectively address the problem of high-risk impaired drivers.

The report notes that alcohol-impaired fatalities accounted for 29 percent of all U.S. motor vehicle deaths in 2018, the lowest percentage since 1982, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began reporting alcohol data.

But even with this progress, in 2018 an average of one alcohol impaired driving fatality occurred every 50 minutes, which translates to 29 deaths each day.

By shining the spotlight on high-risk impaired drivers, the report seeks to prevent repeat offenders and reduce the number of fatalities.

A high-risk impaired driver is a person who lacks the restraint or self-control to resist driving impaired. These drivers meet one or more of three criteria:

  • Drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 g/dL or higher after consuming alcohol
  • Have consumed a combination of drugs and alcohol (polysubstance user)
  • Are repeat offenders (i.e., have more than one DUI arrest)

The high-risk impaired driver population accounts for a disproportionate number of fatalities, the report said, noting that repeat offenders cause about a third of impaired driving deaths each year, while high BAC offenders are involved in more than 60 percent of alcohol-impaired fatalities.

In 2018, 66 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC greater than 0.15 g/dL. Alcohol, however, is not the only impairing substance, as there has been a 16 percent increase over the past 10 years in the number of impaired drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for both alcohol and other drugs.

Many of these offenders have not only a substance use disorder, but also a mental health disorder, according to research conducted by Cambridge Health Alliance at Harvard Medical School. The latter, however, often goes undetected, the report said.

“The traditional criminal justice approach holds these offenders accountable for each impaired driving incident, but to ensure that these high-risk impaired drivers don’t re-offend, we need to expand our approach beyond detection, arrest and conviction,” said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission and Chair of GHSA. “The aim of this new report is to encourage states and their partners to take a more holistic approach to the problem by identifying and treating the cause of the offender’s behavior to reduce recidivism and promote long-term behavior change.”

Grondel said according to criminal justice experts, individualized justice is more effective at deterring high-risk impaired drivers than the typical legislative response of heavy fines and incarceration. In addition to screening and assessment, this approach calls for testing drivers for the presence of not only alcohol, but also other drugs. Many drug-impaired drivers escape detection, however, due to limitations with enforcement practices or policies that do not require drug testing. Additionally, many states lack the toxicology resources necessary to process drug screenings.

“Right now, our approach is to catch, convict and punish the high-risk impaired drivers and then release them. It’s a cookie-cutter approach that doesn’t treat the underlying problem,” said Chris Swonger, president and CEO of Responsibility.org and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). “Instead, we need to identify the root cause of each individual’s behavior and then determine what treatment along with sanctions should be administered so that we break this cycle and prevent impaired driving deaths.”

 

 

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Breaking News

Celadon declares bankruptcy, shuts down operations, and leaves 4,000 employees without jobs

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Celadon has closed business operations after declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The shut down is effective immediately and leaves 4,000 workers without jobs.

Updated Dec. 9, 2019; 12:15 pm CT

INDIANAPOLIS – Celadon Group, Inc., among the nation’s top carriers and based in Indianapolis, declared bankruptcy December 9, leaving thousands without jobs and stranded across the U.S. as fuel cards were apparently cut off without notice. The shutdown ended a tumultuous week for the carrier that saw two previous executives charged with federal fraud, leading to over $60 million in losses to company shareholders. The bankruptcy filing is expected to be the largest in the trucking industry’s history.

Announcement came without warning; trucking industry responds

The announcement of the immediate closure of Celadon was largely unexpected by the company’s employees, many of whom found themselves stranded over the weekend as drivers reported fuel cards being cut off, repossession of equipment at the Celadon Indianapolis terminal, and mobile fleet maintenance contractors refusing to respond to requests for assistance from Celadon drivers. Drivers also reported phone calls to the corporate office going unanswered.

The shock of the immediate shutdown wasn’t only a surprise to Celadon employees but to the entire trucking industry. As an industry made up of like-minded professionals, the trucking industry “family” responded in kind. Various drivers, industry advocates, and carriers posted messages on social media sites offering help to stranded drivers. As news of the inevitable spread over the weekend, drivers and carriers shifted focus to helping fellow industry employees.

Many drivers offered rides to Celadon drivers in order to get them closer to home, and others offered meals, showers, and overnight lodging at no cost. Even competing carriers and logistics companies stepped up in support of the drivers.

MVG Logistics posted, “Celadon has shut down and filed bankruptcy, leaving some of its drivers stranded after shutting down fuel cards with no warning …. We just fueled up two Celadon drivers so they can make it home. No, they [Celadon] don’t dispatch or use mvglogistics.com services but we believe in no driver left behind …. A driver is a driver; we don’t care whose team they’re on!”

Several carriers responded to the shutdown with offers of jobs beginning immediately. Hirschbach posted, “If you are a driver looking for a new company to call home, we have recruiters working this weekend to answer questions. If you are not interested in a job with Hirschbach but are in need of a way home, we are offering free bus tickets to Celadon drivers who are stranded.”

Other carriers including Southland Transportation Company, ShipEX, and CRST Expedited offered similar assistance. One Celadon driver stated that recruiters from other carriers were at the company’s Indianapolis terminal making job offers despite the chaos surrounding them.

The company

Celadon Group, Inc., formed in 1985, had grown into one of the largest carriers in the United States, its central location of Indianapolis providing a hub for north- and south-bound routes to and from Mexico and Canada. Based on 2017 data, Celadon operated 3,200 company-owned trucks, along with 400 lease-to-own rigs and 250 owner-operators. The company owned 10,000 trailers.

In 2015, the Journal of Commerce ranked Celadon as the second fastest-growing carrier in the U.S. Three years later, Logistics Management ranked the carrier as the 16th largest in terms of revenue, but the data did show cracks forming. Among the top 25 revenue-generating carriers, Celadon was one of two that saw revenues decrease (-11%) from 2017. In 2019, Transport Topics listed Celadon as No. 38 in its top 100 for-hire carriers.

Timeline of events

The announcement of the Celadon Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and cease of operations came just days after two former executives were charged with defrauding stockholders by providing intentionally misleading information related to the financial status of the company.

Josh Minkler, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana announced on December 5 that William Eric Meek, former chief operating officer of Celadon, and Bobby Lee Peaver, former chief financial officer, conspired to make Celadon more attractive to investors by providing false statements to company accountants and falsifying records. The charges also include conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud. Minkler stated that both individuals will face “decades” in prison following an investigation by the FBI, U.S. Department of Justice, Postal Inspection Service, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The following is a timeline of events as known this morning:

2016: Meek, Peavler, and other Celadon executives knew a substantial portion of its fleet had declined in value due to an industry slowdown, increased maintenance costs, and age. Meek and Peavler devised a scheme to conceal the millions of dollars in losses from shareholders and banks.

May 2017: Celadon announced financial statements for fiscal year 2016 and the first two quarters of 2017 were unreliable, as were independent auditor reports. The announcement sent Celadon stock value into a tailspin, creating a one-day loss to investors of $62.3 million. Celadon was delisted by the New York Stock Exchange. Meek and Peavler immediately left the company.

Early 2019: Celadon agreed to pay $42.2 million in restitution to settle securities fraud charges.

December 5, 2019: Meek and Peavler were arrested on federal fraud charges based on their effort to defraud Celadon stockholders. Prosecutors said their scheme involved the following:

  1. Inflating invoices old older used trucks that they traded for new trucks;
  2. Selling trucks to a dealer near the end of a fiscal quarter without disclosing that a company division, Quality Companies, agreed to pay the dealer back after the quarter ended;
  3. Making false and misleading statements to auditors about the transactions;
  4. Peavler directing a senior executive to delete certain emails after auditors requested relevant documents.

Following the announcement of charges, lenders began repossessing Celadon equipment.

December 6, 2019: Internal Celadon sources began leaking information on the intent to file for bankruptcy as well as notifying its largest customers to find other carriers. It provided no such information to employees, many learning from customers and drivers who had been in contact with customers late in the evening. Shippers began cancelling loads late that evening as well.

December 7, 2019: Comdata, provider of fuel cards for Celadon, shut off cards as drivers reported trucks being repossessed and towed from truck stops.

December 8, 2019: Drivers were provided conflicting data from the carrier’s headquarters, some being told to complete their deliveries and others told to stop and leave their trucks. Reports indicate that employees were instructed to meet at the company’s Indianapolis headquarters this morning

December 9, 2019: Apparently just after midnight, Celadon sent the following message to employees over its electronic messaging system:

**FLEETWIDE MESSAGE: WE REGRET TO INFORM EVERYONE THAT CELADON GROUPT, INC. HAS FILED FOR CHAPTER 11 BANKRUPTCY. WE WILL CONTINUE TO HAUL AND DELIVER ALL LOADS THAT WE NOW HAVE IN TRANSIT. WE WILL HAVE MORE INFORMATION IN THE MORNING AS TO WHERE EQUIPMENT NEEDS TO BE DELIVERED TO. WE HAVE BEEN ASSURED THAT EVERYONE WHO FOLLOWS INSTRUCTIONS WILL BE PAID FOR THE WORK AND THE MILES ASSIGNED AND COMPLETED, AND CELADON WILL NOT LEAVE ANYONE STRANDED AWAY FROM HOME. FINALLY, WE TRULY APPRECIATE YOUR COMMITMENT AND DEDICATION TO THIS COMPANY, AND WISH YOU ALL LUCK MOVING FORWARD.

CELADON MANAGEMENT

 

In his Monday morning announcement of the Chapter 11 filing, Paul Svindland, Celadon’s CEO, stated, “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.”

Reports late this morning indicated Celadon will pay $5.44 million in unpaid wages and termination bonuses. The bonuses amount to approximately $267 per employee. The company’s stock, which sold for over $20 in 2015, was being sold for $.041 per share on Friday, December 6. This morning, December 9, a share could be purchased for $0.03.

The timing of the announcement could not have been worse for most Celadon employees. If there is a silver lining around this cloud, it’s the reinforcement of the fact that the trucking industry, despite competition, comes together as a family and helps its own when turmoil strikes.

EARLIER STORY

INDIANAPOLIS – Celadon Group, Inc. today announced that it, along with its 25 affiliate entities, have filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.  Celadon also announced that it will shut down all of its business operations effective as of today, Monday, December 9, 2019.  This shut down does not include the Taylor Express business headquartered in Hope Mills, North Carolina, which will continue to operate in the ordinary course while the Company’s explores a going concern sale of its operations.

Celadon intends to use its Chapter 11 proceedings to wind down its global operations.

Paul Svindland, Chief Executive Officer of Celadon, said, “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.”  Svindland noted that, “Celadon has faced significant costs associated with a multi-year investigation into the actions of former management, including the restatement of financial statements.  When combined with the enormous challenges in the industry, and our significant debt obligations, Celadon was unable to address our significant liquidity constraints through asset sales or other restructuring strategies. Therefore, in conjunction with our lenders, we concluded that Celadon had no choice but to cease all operations and proceed with the orderly and safe wind down of our operations through the Chapter 11 process.”  To support the wind down of operations, Celadon’s lenders have agreed to provide incremental debtor-in-possession financing.

Svindland further stated, “I would like to thank our vendors, customers, and lenders, and most importantly, I would like to thank our dedicated administrative employees and drivers whose efforts should not be seen as a reflection of this Chapter 11 filing.  They have sacrificed so much of their time and effort for Celadon, and for that, the Company is eternally grateful.”

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