Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

Early warning signs at Arrow Trucking

| January 18, 2010

One of the lessons to come out of the Arrow Trucking collapse is to recognize warning signs and take appropriate action. There have been reports of drivers paychecks bouncing in the final weeks, but apparently other signs surfaced long before then.

Mark Miller of Portland, who’s still fighting to clear the title for his 2006 Kenworth T600 he acquired in an Arrow lease-purchase program, told me of repeated appeals he and others had to make while on the road when denied permission to use escrow funds for maintenance. Not to mention three cases where his escrow funds were withdrawn for repair work at Arrow’s shop that was never done. “So I threatened to sue them, and the money reappeared mysteriously,” he says.

The company’s reputation for being reluctant to pay repair bills on the road eventually led to some of the major truck stop chains requiring payment in advance, Miller says.

Last February, when the company sent out a second 2008 tax form, correcting figures from the first one, it got his attention. “The minute I saw that, I knew they had two sets of books,” he says.

“I’ve been warning drivers of this for over a year,” Miller says. “I told everyone the same thing: Have $300 in your pocket because they’re going to abandon you.” Many disagreed, saying the owners were putting their own money into the stable, 61-year company. “I said, ‘No, they’re robbing us blind. I’d start looking for another job.’”

Unfortunately, those in Miller’s position couldn’t just walk away because they had thousands of dollars invested in their lease-purchase. For some, there was no way out. “Guys with three or four years worth of payments, some of them had their trucks taken back,” he says, after Arrow cut their miles and made it virtually impossible for them to make payments.

Miller says that was about to happen to him in August. He immediately sold some assets, paid off his truck early and leased to another carrier, only to learn later that Arrow had refinanced his truck without his knowledge. Now he’s unable to drive until he can clear his title from its lien.

Arrow officials have been unavailable to respond to these and many other charges against them, some of which have now taken the form of lawsuits.