Celadon drivers cope with loss of jobs, investments

December 12, 2019

Mark Schremmer

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Over the past four years, truck driver Nathaniel Branch said he’s invested about $130,000 as part of lease-purchase agreements with Celadon. However, that investment is gone after the trucking giant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this week.

“I’ve entered into two lease-purchase agreements and put in about $130,000, and now I don’t have a truck,” said Branch, an OOIDA member from Alpharetta, Ga. “That’s the reality. Logically, I could have had a truck with that price.”

Branch was one of about 4,000 Celadon workers who suddenly find themselves out of work weeks before Christmas. After filing for bankruptcy, Celadon announced on Monday that it was shutting down operations. According to Celadon, the company had 4,000 employees, 3,300 tractors and 10,000 trailers. Many of its truck drivers weren’t notified until about 12:30 a.m. Monday, and many had to take bus trips home after returning the truck to a Celadon terminal.

Lease-purchase

In Branch’s case, he started working for Celadon about four-and-a-half years ago after coming to the United States from France. He started as a company driver and then became a leased-on owner-operator and trainer.

Branch said he first entered a lease-purchase agreement for a 2016 International Lonestar and made about $100,000 in payments, not including maintenance fees, on the truck before turning it in and starting a new lease-purchase agreement for a 2015 International ProStar. He said he was about halfway through playing off the Lonestar but switched to lower his payments. Branch then said he invested about $30,000 in the ProStar before he had to turn it over to Celadon earlier this week so it could be sold at auction.

While the investment appears to be gone, Branch said he has been assured that he will receive pay for his last runs – about $2,000 – this week.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware issued an order granting Celadon the authority to pay $5.4 million in unpaid wages, contracts and termination bonuses. Nearly $4 million will go toward unpaid wages for employees, while more than $500,000 will go toward independent contractors and the rest will go toward the bonus program.

Branch said he is disappointed about how things ended at Celadon and plans to find a new trucking company soon.

“I was successful in my time at Celadon, so I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about them,” Branch said. “I come from France and the opportunities for me weren’t big. Celadon accepted me and gave me a chance. I’m just sad operations ended.”

Driver hired week before company closes

Charlotte Stipp, a truck driver from Longview, Texas, said she entered Celadon’s orientation program one week before the company announced its closure.

Stipp said she is upset that the company would bring people in for orientation when it likely knew the end was near.

“I asked the recruiter if the company was on good footing,” Stipp said. “I was told that they had new management and had secured financing and not to worry about it. Then I saw the reports over the weekend and said, ‘You got to be kidding me.’”

Stipp said earlier this week that she is owed about $375 and hopes to receive payment.

“I was told the money would be there Friday,” Stipp said. “I guess I will wait and see. It would be nice with Christmas coming up.”

As of Thursday afternoon, some drivers posted on the Celadon Stranded Drivers Assistance and Jobs Facebook page that they were starting to receive payments.

(H3) OOIDA reaches out to affected drivers

Were you or was someone you know in a lease-purchase agreement with Celadon? OOIDA would like to help. Please call the Association at 816-229-5791 and ask to speak to a representative in the Business Services department.

Land Line Now’s Terry Scruton contributed to this report.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, associate editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.