After FreightWaves broke the news late Saturday that less-than-truckload carrier Central Freight Lines planned to cease operations on Monday after 96 years, other LTL carriers have stepped up recruiting efforts over the past few days to scoop up more than 2,100 drivers and employees who will lose their jobs right before Christmas.
CFL President Bruce Kalem told FreightWaves late Monday that rival LTL carrier Estes Express Lines, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, which has nearly 8,100 drivers and 7,300 power units, is looking to add many of CFL’s 1,325 drivers to its fleet.
He also confirmed that Estes Express has also “made an offer on some of CFL’s equipment,” but added that other LTL carriers, including TFI International’s TForce Freight (NYSE:TFII) , Saia (NASDAQ: SAIA) and XPO Logistics (NYSE:XPO), have also expressed interest in hiring many of the company’s drivers, dockworkers and management personnel and are looking at buying some of its equipment.
While other companies have posted hiring notices on various social platforms, Kalem said Estes is making the aggressive effort of working directly with Central.
“Estes is definitely the largest company interested in hiring our people and they are a solid carrier; however, there are others contacting us about hiring our people during this difficult time,” Kalem told FreightWaves. “The bottom line is our employees have a lot of job opportunities if they want them, which is good.”
Family-owned Estes Express, which was founded in 1931 by W.W. Estes, is the nation’s fifth-largest LTL carrier and the largest privately owned LTL company in North America.
A source close to the situation called Estes Express “a top-notch LTL carrier that will take care of viable CFL’s drivers.”
Central Freight Lines is the largest trucking company to close since Celadon ceased operations right before Christmas in 2019.
A source close to CFL told FreightWaves that the carrier had “too much debt and too many unpaid bills” to continue operating, despite exploring all available options to keep its doors open.
“Years of operating losses and struggles for many years sapped our liquidity and we had no other place to go at this point,” Kalem told FreightWaves. “Nobody is going to make money on this closing — nobody.”
Central Freight will cease picking up new shipments effective Monday and expects to deliver substantially all freight in its system by Dec. 20, according to a company statement.
A source familiar with the company said he is unsure whether CFL will file Chapter 7 or “liquidate outside of bankruptcy” but that the LTL carrier has no plans to reorganize.
The company reshuffled its executive team nearly a year ago in an effort to stay afloat, including adding the company’s owner, Jerry Moyes, as CFL’s interim president and chief executive officer. Moyes remained CEO after Kalem was elevated to president in July.