Some 455 truck drivers who hauled freight under the banner of Flagship Transport LLC, a logistics holding company headquartered in Medley, Florida, say they have had no contact with company executives since last week, when they received text messages promising their paychecks would be available for pickup at the company’s yard on Tuesday. But that didn’t happen.
Owner-operator Antonio Rivera, 37, of DeLand, Florida, drove for Arel Trucking Inc. (ATI) of Lakeland, Florida, for nearly two years, hauling beer, water and other freight. He delivered his last load on Monday.
He said most truck drivers took their freight to the yard in Medley on Tuesday but have not received any communication from dispatchers or company owners about what to do if they are still under loads. Rivera said other drivers are still making their way back to the Miami area.
As of publication, Roberto C. Fernandez, Flagship Transport’s president and director, had not responded to FreightWaves’ request seeking comment on the status of the transportation companies. Neither did Mario Abad, who is listed as a director of Flagship Transport.
Miami-based attorney David M. McDonald, who serves as a registered agent for Fernandez’s companies, said he isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations of the companies, but admitted he had heard rumors about Flagship’s financial health over the past few days.
“I understand that they’re working with creditors and potential investors to get more cash into the business but I’m not involved in those discussions,” McDonald told FreightWaves. “There were expectations of investors that would have covered those payments [to employees and drivers], but it’s unclear what happened.”
As of publication Wednesday, Flagship Transport and its affiliated companies had not filed for bankruptcy protection.
Rivera said there were warning signs that the company was experiencing some financial problems, but that the company said not to worry, that it was switching banks and drivers and employees would be paid by paper checks instead of receiving direct deposits for the near future.
Arel Trucking is the largest fleet operating under Flagship Transport’s umbrella, with 380 power units and 380 drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration SAFER website.
However, Rivera claims the paper checks the drivers and office employees have been receiving over the past two to three weeks have bounced. Rivera said he is owed about $5,000 from ATI. But he knows drivers who are owed much more — up to $20,000.
“At first, we trusted them — we thought it was a transitional thing — switching banks is difficult and it doesn’t happen overnight,” Rivera told FreightWaves.
Other companies owned by Flagship Transport include:
AQI Logistic Trucks of Medley. The company has 21 power units and 15 drivers and hauled general freight and machinery. The FMCSA granted its common carrier authority in February 2019.
Medley-based Gables Transport Inc. had 60 power units and the same number of drivers. It hauled general freight, fresh produce and refrigerated food as well as chemicals. The FMCSA granted the company’s contract and common carrier authority in February 2011.
Freight brokerage GAT Logistics, which received its broker authority in January 2019, according to FMCSA.
Flagship Freight, which posted on its Facebook page on March 14 that it was looking for owner-operators to do local port work.
An owner-operator who responded to Flagship Transport’s call for drivers commented that he started working for the company on March 15, a day after the social media post.
“I left a good company to work with Flagship,” the truck driver said. “I’m stuck 1,000 miles from home with no fuel and no hope of getting paid.”
Rivera said truck drivers received text messages on Saturday, notifying them that they could only fuel up at one of Love’s Travel Stops, which is headquartered in Oklahoma City.
It’s unclear if truckers’ fuel cards were still working on Wednesday.
The company also has a back-office team in Barranquilla, Colombia, which provides 24-hour dispatcher and breakdown assistance for the trucking companies.
Rivera said he spoke with his former dispatcher in Colombia, who said “everybody had been kicked out of the office and everything was shut down.”
No one answered the phones when FreightWaves called the companies’ U.S. offices on Wednesday. The chat function on Flagship Transport’s website appeared to be down as well and did not connect to a live agent in response to questions submitted by FreightWaves.
Some truck drivers waited outside the company’s terminal in Medley on Wednesday for answers from company executives.
“I think they lied to us to buy more time by telling us our paychecks would be ready on Tuesday and that they would include back pay for the bounced checks and then they don’t show up to pay us, that’s just wrong,” Rivera said.
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