Family-owned BK Trans Inc. of Arlington Heights, Illinois, said it will cease operations in March, citing a brutal freight market, the ongoing struggle to find qualified drivers and soaring insurance costs as the main reasons behind the small carrier’s decision to close after 10 years.
“The market in 2019 was brutal on us and we did everything in our power to survive, but then a couple of months after implementing [electronic logging devices] ELDs, the market tanked and we have not been able to recover for at least a year now,” Phil Kiszkiel, co-founder of BK Trans, told FreightWaves.
His company, which he owns with his father, a former owner-operator, also picked up a number of leased trucks to try and stay afloat, but the high weekly overhead didn’t allow BK Trans to “keep the operation profitable.”
Kiszkiel told FreightWaves, “We have gone into debt hoping for better times in the future, but the outlook for this year looks grim.”
The company, which hauls produce and general freight, had 20 trucks in 2018, but that number dwindled in 2019 as rates dropped and Kiszkiel struggled to find qualified drivers.
Over the past 24 months, BK trucks have been inspected 21 times and nine were placed out of service, resulting in a 43% out-of-service rate, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) SAFER website. Its drivers were inspected 52 times and three were placed out of service in the same two-year period.
While Kiszkiel said the Chicago area is a “wonderful place to start a transportation company,” mega-carriers have made it nearly impossible for small trucking businesses like his to survive.
He had hoped that rates would go up in the first part of 2020, but that didn’t happen.
“Right now it’s just better to close the doors, take a year off, regroup and figure out our next move,” Kiszkiel said.