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Central Freight confirms Estes Express offering to snap up drivers, buy equipment

‘The bottom line is our employees have a lot of job opportunities if they want them,’ Kalem says

Estes Express is reacting quickly to the impending shutdown of Central Freight Lines. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

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.

Kalem agreed.

“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.

Watch FW NOW: What’s next for Central Freight Lines employees?

Exclusive: Central Freight Lines to shut down after 96 years
Reaction to news of Central Freight Lines shutting down


  1. Ann

    When I found out after I drove for Werner 2 years, that owner operators were making $5,000.00
    per week, it made me save my own money to pay for my own truck!
    Company drivers are either “homeless” or stupid, or very bad with money, because that’s why 90% of drivers now are NOW O/Operators !
    I WAS homeless.
    After I looked at 2 of my buddies take home pay after putting 1/2 of money into a repairs, maint. account… I saved like a dog for my own truck, running power only loads within 150 miles of my own house!!

  2. Harry Walker

    I’m Harry Walker here in Memphis TN.. How can the Trucking Companies be expressing theres Massively Shortage of Truck Drivers. Most of the Trucking Companies are trying to keep the Lowest Premium by letting their Insurance Carrier Dictate Who And Not To Hire. I’ve had my CDL A License since 2001 but wanted to pursue other things. But here in Memphis Tennessee Estes Express E. Shelby Drive, Central Freight of Memphis TN… During 2021 I have been jobless and begging for Job Offerings but how can less fortunate people during this Life World Change of a Pandemic be Discovered, when Estes Express and Central Freight of Memphis TN only use Keywords or letting the computer screen the applications. I have applied for Forklift Shipping Clerk and Forklift Position and every time I have applied I’m Constantly Denied Chances. But it’s all Over News Media It’s Thousands Of Jobs Available.. Where In Heaven? To these Truck Lines here in Memphis TN my CDL A License is Pointless as it’s Crazy and Insulting. This isn’t the time to demanding Recently Experiences when this world has an Ongoing Pandemic that’s Killing Millions of People. Giving Chances To Unemployed People Never Hurts Any Company if anything you’ll find Great Quality People, but you can’t find them Set Qualifications So High For Always Sorry You Don’t Qualify? We can’t Relive Our Past… We Strive To Move Forward and Estes Express, Central Freight Lines of Memphis TN Aren’t Trying To See The Best In Applicants like me. I cry so much I break down in tears how can a Man be A Man when nobody is willing to Hire You?
    [email protected]

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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected]