Workers File Class-Action Suit over Arrow Trucking Closure

By Frederick Kiel, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Jan. 11 print edition of Transport Topics.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the 1,400 former employees of Arrow Trucking, the Tulsa, Okla., flatbed carrier that shut down abruptly last month.

The lawsuit claims Arrow violated federal law by not giving the workers 60 days notice, by failing to provide funds to cover final paychecks and that it left hundreds of drivers stranded — some of them “thousands of miles” from their homes.

Arrow closed its doors Dec. 21 without making a public announcement. It dismissed about 200 workers at its home office that day and left recorded messages for drivers to bring their trucks to the nearest dealership to turn in their vehicles and to get a bus ticket home (click here for previous story).

Arrow also cancelled its drivers’ fuel cards, forcing those without enough diesel fuel in their tanks to make it to the dealership either to abandon their trucks or pay for the fuel themselves.

Charles Ercole, an attorney with Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP, Philadelphia, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Tulsa Dec. 28 on behalf of all Arrow employees. He told Transport Topics he specializes in representing employees of closed companies.

Ercole said the Arrow case presented “a fluid situation” because the company has yet to take any legal steps.

“If Arrow does not file for bankruptcy, the case will be tried in Tulsa,” Ercole said. “If there is a way of harnessing the trucks, we’ll do it, but I understand most of the trucks were leased. However, Arrow has other real estate, some trucking terminals in the Southwest. But we don’t know yet if those properties are loaded up with mortgages.”

He said that in a bankruptcy, employees are second in line after secured creditors, but sometimes courts have ordered bounced paychecks to be paid first.

Ercole said the next step would be for the court to summon Arrow, after which the company would have 30 days to reply.

“If we find out there are any shenanigans going on, we’ll force them into bankruptcy,” Ercole said. “We have forced other companies into bankruptcy in order to get at their assets.”

The 14-page class action lawsuit named Arrow Trucking and CEO Douglas Pielsticker as defendants.

The Tulsa World reported Jan. 4 that Pielsticker had issued a statement saying he had been “separated from the company” since Dec. 19, two days before it closed its doors.

In October 2001, Arrow Trucking’s president, Jim Pielsticker, was killed in a plane crash, and his son, Douglas, took over as CEO, Tulsa World said.

James Sturdivant, lawyer for Pielsticker’s mother, Carol Pielsticker — sole owner of privately held Arrow said he stopped talking to the media once the lawsuit was filed.

“I’m not talking to the media now,” Sturdivant told TT Dec. 30. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“All I will say is that we have a tragic situation,” he added.

The Tulsa World reported on Dec. 24 that vendors had served lawsuits on Arrow Trucking for unpaid bills totaling almost half a million dollars.

The newspaper later reported that four additional lawsuits were filed by Dec. 30, one alleging $1.4 million in an unpaid bank loan.

Ercole said he had wound up cases such as this in as few as eight or nine months, but others have gone on for several years.

“First, we want to get their final paychecks,” he said.

Arrow had been running nearly 1,400 tractors, with 1,000 of them leased Freightliners.

The lawsuit mentioned many claims against Arrow by the three plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, who are acting as representatives for all the carrier’s employees.

The lawsuit stated that because Arrow failed to give the notice required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, the plaintiffs “are entitled to payment for their respective wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, accrued holiday pay and accrued vacation” for the period for the violation, up to a maximum of 60 days.”

Jack Ferry, spokesman for Daimler Truck Financial, the financial arm of Daimler Trucks North America — which builds Freightliner trucks — earlier told TT he expected to recover all the company’s leased trucks from Arrow.

On Dec. 24, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an emergency order against Arrow, saying that the company must tell drivers to take trucks to “appropriate facilities for . . . safe and orderly transfer.”

FMCSA’s order cited “the threat to public safety posed by the potential abandonment or im-proper parking of and/or lack of attendance to over 1,000 commercial motor vehicles around the United States, some of which may be carrying hazardous material.”

It has not been possible to reach any Arrow executive. Since the company closed, its telephone numbers have reached only recorded messages offering advice to drivers and other employees without mentioning the shutdown.