Arrow truck drivers needed help, and they got it

When Tulsa, OK-based Arrow Trucking suddenly shut down last week, hundreds of truck drivers were left to wonder whether they would see their families at Christmas. Probably, that was the least of their worries as fears about where paychecks would come from, how many bills would pile up and whether the mortgage would get paid quickly crept in.

Now is not the time to be unemployed. Especially if you are a trucker. But that’s what happened. And now others are left to pick up the pieces.

Daimler Truck Financial spokesman James Ryan told me that the company has not received any more requests for help from drivers, ultimately a good sign. That means everyone is likely home and with family. Daimler provided the financing for Arrow’s equipment. The company paid for about 100 Greyhound bus tickets for drivers to get home in time for Christmas. Ryan also said the company is trying to help customers that may have cargo that has been stranded somewhere throughout the U.S. Daimler was not ultimately responsible to do anything for the drivers or customers, yet it did it anyway. Ryan said it was just the right thing to do.

It’s one thing for a deep-pocketed company to offer help, it’s another when total strangers pitch in. That’s what happened on a Facebook group that formed. With nearly 6,000 fans of the page, other drivers posted their routes, offering to pick up stranded Arrow drivers along the way. In some cases, “chains” were created where some drivers provided rides part of the way before another driver took the Arrow employee home.

The page has also served as an unofficial jobs board with companies posting openings they have. Maybe some of the affected drivers will be able to quickly find work. I sure hope so. I encourage everyone to visit the Facebook page, located here, and offer help if you can.

Another angle that is being pursued is a lawsuit by Attorney Charles Ercole of the Philadelphia-based firm Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP. His contention is Arrow violated the Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. The act stipulates that a company with a certain number of employees (I’m not sure off-hand of the actual number, but based on my knowledge, Arrow would certainly qualify) must by law notify employees of any potential shutdown at least 60 days in advance.

Based on all the stories we’ve heard of drivers learning of the company’s fate when they tried to fuel their rigs, that certainly didn’t happen in this case. In fact, Ercole told me “we have information from employees that their last couple of paychecks bounced.” Arrow employed about 1,400.

Ultimately, it will be up to a court to decide whether the law was violated and what punishment, if any, there should be. What was missed, though, was an opportunity to save the jobs of these employees, if in fact Arrow was aware of the coming predicament.

I learned about the WARN act when a national newspaper chain in my state of Connecticut announced it was shutting down two daily newspapers in the state. Despite the angst the employees felt with the announcement, it turned out to be a blessing. An investor stepped forward and struck a deal to save the papers and the jobs. If the company had just shut down those papers without following the law, a hundred people would have been out of work.

Could this have happened for Arrow? Sure. Perhaps someone would have stepped forward, seen the potential for Arrow Trucking, and struck a deal. Given the economy, it’s equally likely that would not have happened. But those employees never had a chance.

Who’s to blame in this whole mess? I have no real idea. But that’s not really important right now, and eventually will be sorted out in a courtroom. What is important is that these 1,400 people don’t have their lives turned upside down anymore.