While the August demise of less-than-truckload carrier Yellow Corp. monopolized headlines in both mainstream and industry media in 2023 after the 99-year-old trucking firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection — the largest filing in U.S. trucking history — a number of smaller trucking companies and brokerages also called it quits or sought bankruptcy protection after a brutal year in the freight industry. Other FreightWaves stories focused on fraud investigations and the mysterious disappearance of an Iowa truck driver, who was last seen by his family on Nov. 20.

Matheson Trucking announces shutdown plans

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

In December, U.S. Postal Service contractor Matheson Trucking and wholly owned subsidiaries Matheson Flight Extenders (MFE) and Matheson Postal Services (MPS) of Sacramento, California, announced plans to wind down operations on Jan. 31, 2024, after six decades in business.  

Amid an ongoing financial dispute with the Postal Service, the Matheson entities laid off nearly 3,500 workers over a five-month period, a source familiar with the situation told FreightWaves. 

MFE and MPS are wholly owned subsidiaries of Matheson Trucking. The family-owned entities, founded by Robert and Carole Matheson in 1962, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2022. MFE has been providing services to the Postal Service since December 1998. Read the story.

Surge Transportation files for bankruptcy protection

After two years of record growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacksonville, Florida-based Surge Transportation, a digital freight brokerage, sought a buyer and slashed its rates and workforce nearly a year before it filed for bankruptcy protection in late July 2023.

While Surge had hoped to avoid bankruptcy, the company said it had no choice but to file its Chapter 11 petition to gain “breathing room” to allow a new business model — which seeks to raise rates, as well as reduce overhead expenses with fewer employees both in the U.S. and overseas — to “become established without the threat of creditor collection actions or being cut off by motor carrier factors.” Read the story.

Elite Transit Solutions ceases operations

Although Pittsburgh-based Elite Transit Solutions is now shuttered after its broker authority was involuntarily revoked by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in late November, many trucking companies that hauled freight for the brokerage had not been paid since May and no one’s answering the phones. While a number of laid-off employees were eventually paid, carriers weren’t so lucky. Read the story.

Meadow Lark Agency, Meadow Lark Transport seek bankruptcy liquidation

Nearly 120 ex-employees were owed about $800,000 in unpaid wages while around 1,300 trucking companies were owed almost $2.7 million after 40-year-old Montana-based Meadow Lark Agency and its affiliate, Meadow Lark Transport, filed for bankruptcy liquidation in early November. Read the story.

Meadow Lark’s broker authority was involuntarily revoked on Aug. 15, and its contract carrier authority was canceled on Oct. 28.

Since May, motor carriers claimed they had been fighting for months to get paid after hauling brokered loads for Meadow Lark.

On Oct. 12, FreightWaves reported that Meadow Lark Transport had abruptly shuttered operations. At the time, the company had 273 drivers and 337 power units, according to the FMCSA’s SAFER website. Meadow Lark’s broker authority was involuntarily revoked on Aug. 15, and its contract carrier authority was canceled on Oct. 28. Read the story.

Former Slync.io CEO Chris Kirchner indicted on fraud charges

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

In May, former Slync.io CEO Chris Kirchner was indicted on federal charges that he defrauded investors out of at least $25 million from the FreightTech startup he helped launch in 2017. Authorities allege he used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle, including a $16 million private jet. Kirchner’s trial is scheduled to start on Jan. 22 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth. Read the story.

Slync.io winds down operations

While logistics visibility platform provider Slync had hoped that new management and a $24 million cash infusion in February would be enough to save the FreightTech company, the company is proceeding with an alternative option to a traditional bankruptcy and plans to wind down operations and sell off its technology. 

The timing of Slync’s filing in October comes nearly three weeks after Kirchner filed suit against his former employer for legal fee advancement and indemnification in Delaware’s Court of Chancery. Kirchner sought to have Slync pay his legal bills in his ongoing fraud case after his assets were frozen by the feds. Read the story.

Judge rules against TQL on overtime pay

In late September, a federal judge ruled that Total Quality Logistics — the second-largest freight brokerage in the U.S. — violated federal law and owes overtime pay to thousands of former employees who worked more than 40 hours a week.

Judge Michael Barrett of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio issued his ruling almost 18 months after a 12-day bench trial ended in early March 2022. He ordered TQL to pay overtime wages to the employees and an additional amount equal to the actual damages. Barrett also found Ken Oaks, chief executive and co-founder of TQL, personally liable. Read the story.

Iowa trucker still missing

(Submitted image)

Iowa truck driver David Schultz, 53, of Wall Lake, Iowa, has been missing since early Nov. 21. Sarah Schultz told FreightWaves she last saw her husband around 7 p.m. on Nov. 20 when he dropped by the house to grab a change of clothes before heading out to pick up another load of pigs.

What happened next remains a mystery as local, county and state law enforcement agencies are still searching for answers — and Dave. Read the story.

Identify fraud story hits home with carriers, brokers

Owner-operators Toni and Chris Murphy of New Egypt, New Jersey, share their story of a tech-savvy fraudster who stole their trucking company’s identity, posted loads using their Department of Transportation number, collected payment for those loads, then disappeared, leaving the Murphys to deal with the fallout. Their story resonated with carriers and brokers, who shared similar tales of dealing with identity fraud in 2023. Read the story.

Trucking co-owner sentenced in bank fraud scheme

In January, former trucking company co-owner Nolan DeWall, 39, of Cedar Falls, Iowa, was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa to a year and a day in federal prison.

DeWall had pleaded guilty seven months earlier to one count of bank fraud for his role in orchestrating an elaborate $250,000 check kiting scheme. He also faced unrelated charges in state court that he allowed more than 800 pigs to starve or freeze to death in his care in December 2021. Read the story.

Trucking fraudster sentenced

A previously convicted fraudster, Franklin Ray, 52, of Canton, Michigan, was sentenced to more than 17 years in federal prison for his role in multiple fraud schemes, including bilking investors out of $40 million in a truck investment venture.

He was sentenced in late November in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after pleading guilty in March to four counts of wire fraud, including one count while he was released on bail.

Ray admitted that over a 10-month period — June 2021 until April 2022 — he defrauded 275 investors in CSA Business Solutions LLC, headquartered in Imlay City, Michigan, telling them he had 4,704 trucks and 4,909 drivers when he only had two trucks and four drivers. He purportedly told investors that he used the $40 million to purchase over 2,000 trucks. That wasn’t the case. Read the story.

Do you have a news tip or story to share? Send me an email or message me @cage_writer on X, formerly known as Twitter. Your name will not be used without your permission.

More FreightWaves articles by Clarissa Hawes

The post Bankruptcies, fraud and a missing trucker: Key trucking stories in 2023  appeared first on FreightWaves.

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