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Preston Trucking Inc. closes up

July 28, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

WILLIAMSPORT - Maryland-based Preston Trucking Co. has closed after learning its lenders would no longer support the 67-year-old firm, a company statement said.

Preston has 37 employees at its terminal next to the Interstate Industrial Park outside Williamsport, according to the 1999 Business & Industry Directory published by the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

The privately owned firm employs 5,500 people nationwide, including 700 in Maryland, said Tom Riford, marketing director for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

The firm, with headquarters in Preston, Md., on the Eastern Shore, opened a service center in Washington County in 1976. The service center moved from Jefferson Boulevard to 10120 Governor Lane Blvd. in the early 1980s.

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"We have been forced to cease operations because the business is generating insufficient cash to meet its payment obligations as they become due," Chief Financial Officer Sean Callahan said in a prepared statement available on the firm's Web site at www.preston151.com.

"Vigorous attempts to obtain financing from other sources have been unsuccessful," Callahan said.

Company President Dave Letke, through a prepared statement, said the firm was unable to overcome revenue loss from 1998 because of uncertainty concerning "the negotiation of a new contract" and the company's future.

Three top Preston officials, including Letke and Callahan, bought the company in July 1998 from Yellow Corporation, in Overland Park, Kan.

Before the sale was closed, the new owners reached an agreement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for a 5-year labor agreement, according to Yellow's Web site at www.yellowcorp.com.

Yellow said Monday that it entered into an agreement with Preston to help Preston's customers by picking up and delivering shipments.

The switchboard answering machine at Preston's headquarters answered with the following message: "It is with great sorrow and regret that Preston Trucking Company will cease operations effective Monday, July 26, 1999. We will make no further pickups but all freight in our system will be delivered this week."

A woman who answered the telephone at Preston Trucking Co. on Tuesday said company officials had nothing to say other than what was in their press releases.

Teamsters Local Union No. 992 is trying to find jobs for its 30 union members who worked at Preston in Williamsport, said George Woods, the union's secretary and treasurer. Employees were notified of the closing on Monday, he said.

Woods said Roadway Express Inc., Consolidated Freightways and Yellow Freight are all hiring.

D.M. Bowman Inc. and American Freightways also are looking for truck drivers, Riford said.

"I am encouraged that there are other trucking companies that are actively seeking drivers right now," Riford said.

The suddenness of the closing was startling, Riford said.

Preston was founded in 1932 to carry produce across the Chesapeake Bay from the Eastern Shore, according to its Web site. "The 151 Line" logo represents the 151 trucks the firm had when it was first incorporated.

The firm is a less-than-truckload carrier that specializes in next-day and two-day service in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions.

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