Northeastern truckload carrier Atkinson Freight Lines closed its doors after being battered by rising costs and competition from larger national carriers.
The unionized carrier is meeting with Teamsters officials to discuss the closure, said Joseph B. Atkinson III, chairman and CEO of the Bensalem, Pa.-based company.
The 127-year-old company, founded as a horse-and-wagon trash hauler in 1885, closed its doors Feb. 17. “There’s no freight left in the pipeline,” Atkinson said.
In an interview, Atkinson blamed the company’s failure “on the market,” particularly rising operating costs and pressure to lower rates to fend off larger competitors.
“When Schneider National said they were moving into the regional market, I knew I was in trouble,” Atkinson said. “My competition is Schneider and all the big guys.”
Atkinson said he came under pressure to lower rates as larger truckload carriers began offering regional service in its Washington, D.C. to Boston territory. During the recession, the carrier lost long-standing Fortune 500 customers such as Hershey, IKEA, CHEP and Georgia-Pacific to bigger carriers, he said.
Most of the carrier’s customers were Fortune 500 companies, he said, and its largest commodity was toilet paper. “We specialized in marketable disposables,” he said. As a Teamsters carrier in the Northeast, AFL had to deal with rising pension and health care costs, and paid higher driver wages than the national average.
AFL drivers were typically paid more than $55,000 a year, he said. “I’m competing with guys who are paid in the $30,000s or $40,000s. They’re treated like slaves.”