By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer
On Friday, Oct. 21, nearly 90 employees and truck drivers for Sports Associated Inc. of Kansas City, KS, received the unexpected news that the company was shutting its doors that day. At least 44 drivers were still trying to get home late Friday.
It appears the plug has been pulled on several companies operating under the umbrella of GMJ Co., Inc., including Sports Associated, Topeka Transfer and Storage Inc., and O’Neil Relocation.
OOIDA Member Daniel Fattig of St. Joseph, MO, said he was backing up to the dock in Omaha, NE, when his dispatcher called him with the news that something was wrong.
“My dispatcher told me not to go and get a backhaul, just to bring the trailer back because there’s something going wrong, and I think the company is going to close up shop,” Fattig told Land Line.
About an hour later, Fatting said he received a second call from his dispatcher to fuel up as soon as he could before the fuel cards were turned off.
“When I was on the phone with my dispatcher, I could hear in the background another dispatcher telling my dispatcher that it was too late, they are shut off,” Fattig said.
Late Friday, Roger Grisham, vice president of transportation and warehousing for Sports Associated, confirmed for Land Line that the company was suspending operations immediately.
As of press time, Grisham said that he still had 44 truck drivers stranded approximately 600 to 3,000 miles from home. He added that he and another employee weren’t leaving until they got the drivers all home.
“I have been here 25 years, and (the drivers) are all my friends,” Grisham said. “They’ve been with me a long time, and I’m not leaving them.”
Grisham said he was advising drivers to get to a truck stop and call him when they got low on fuel.
“I told them I would put their fuel on my personal credit card to get them home,” he said. “I am not going to let them sit out there like that. They didn’t do anything to deserve that.”
Grisham said he didn’t have an inkling that the company was shutting down until Friday morning, the same day the drivers found out.
“From what I understand, the bank called a note due on the owner (George Hersh),” he said. “He thought he could get it worked out, but then he couldn’t.”
Late Friday, Fattig was low on fuel, but was about 20 miles from home. He is owed more than $3,400 after fuel, but not having a paycheck this week has put him in a financial bind.
“I had just bought another truck because this one is on its last trip and I was going to tag the new one with this money,” he said. “The reason I leased on with this company was because they had been in business for more than 30 years. You don’t just run out of money overnight. This is another Arrow (Trucking) disaster.”
None of the Sports Associated employees or truck drivers received paychecks that cleared on Friday, Grisham said.
“We are in the same boat right now, but I can’t worry about that right now,” he said. “I keep telling the drivers to keep going; I’ll get you home.”
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