January 1, 2010 – Arrow Trucking’s decision to abruptly “suspend operations” with no advance warning just three days before Christmas left former drivers and the entire trucking community stunned. The actions by Arrow’s executives, who continued to send out trucks with freight they knew their drivers would be unable to deliver when their fuel cards were shut off, did not go unnoticed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration either.
An emergency order was issued on Dec. 24, 2009, just two days after the company’s collapse, by William Quade, acting associate administrator for field operations for FMCSA. This order comes after Quade spoke by phone to Arrow’s vice president of operations, relaying grave concerns regarding Arrow’s chaotic shutdown. The order against Arrow, its managers and officers, directed them to “comply immediately with all applicable federal, state and local regulations pertaining to commercial motor vehicle cargo securement, attendance and parking.”
However, this order appears to have been ignored by Arrow executives. In fact, countless trucks, trailers and abandoned loads are still missing. Many stranded Arrow drivers relied upon fellow truckers and others who donated money, food and fuel to get them home.
Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, told Land Line on Friday, Jan. 1, that he can’t recall another time when FMCSA has issued an emergency order such as this one like they have sent to Arrow.
“Basically, what FMCSA is doing here is putting Arrow on notice that they should act responsible and take care of their drivers, their equipment and cargo because of the impact this could have on the public,” Spencer said. “This lets Arrow officials know that they are under the microscope and that acting irresponsibly here will have consequences for them if their desire is to continue in business as a carrier.”
Quade states in the order that Arrow executives’ “failure to comply with the provisions … will subject (Arrow) to an action in the U.S. District Court for equitable relief and civil penalties.” The agency further advised Arrow that the company may be assessed for criminal penalties.
According to the directive from FMCSA, Arrow management and officers were ordered to “direct Arrow employees or other responsible and qualified operators to drive Arrow CVMs to appropriate facilities for the safe and orderly transfer of responsibility and control over the vehicles.”
One former Arrow driver posted: “I guess the management had better hop in their four-wheelers and get busy. Sounds like they've got a long trip ahead of them and a lot of trucks to move.”
One concern that triggered FMCSA’s emergency order is the fear that some of these drivers were hauling hazardous materials at the time the company suspended operations, which could be a “threat to public safety.”
Spencer said drivers may have been forced to abandon their hazmat loads when they ran out of fuel and received no instruction from Arrow on what to do next.
The order stated that “Days earlier, Arrow had continued to dispatch its CMV fleet. Arrow failed to make advance arrangements for the return of its vehicles to Arrow principal place of business in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or to otherwise pull the vehicles out of service in an orderly fashion. Hundreds of Arrow drivers were thereby stranded, and in some cases, the drivers have abandoned their vehicles.”
Spencer said that what Arrow executives should have done when they first realized they were facing dire financial circumstances would have been to “move in the direction of preserving their cash.”
“What they should not have done was to send their drivers out without enough fuel to deliver their loads and put their drivers in the position where they would be forced – in essence – to leave the trucks,” he said.
“Arrow should not have accepted freight that they knew could not be delivered,” Spencer said. “It was their responsibility to set up and direct drivers as to where to go with the cargo and that’s obviously responsibility they did not exercise here.”
More than a week later, some drivers are still making their way home or trying to find employment with other trucking companies who have stepped up with offers to hire former Arrow drivers. There have been a few media reports suggesting that FMCSA regulations may prevent trucking companies from quickly hiring driver formerly employed with Arrow.
Candice Tolliver, communications director for FMCSA, advised OOIDA on New Year’s Eve that the federal regs do not preclude any trucking company from promptly hiring drivers previously employed by a motor carrier that has suspended operations or gone out of business.