NEW YORK -- Trucking company Yellow Corp. has shut down operations and is headed for a bankruptcy filing, according to the Teamsters Union and multiple media reports.
After years of financial struggles, reports of Yellow preparing for bankruptcy emerged last week — as the Nashville, Tennessee-based trucker saw customers leave in large numbers. Yellow shut down operations on Sunday, according to the Wall Street Journal, following the layoffs of hundreds of nonunion employees on Friday.
In an announcement early Monday, the Teamsters said that the union received legal notice confirming Yellow was ceasing operations and filing for bankruptcy.
“Today’s news is unfortunate but not surprising. Yellow has historically proven that it could not manage itself despite billions of dollars in worker concessions and hundreds of millions in bailout funding from the federal government,” Teamsters general president Sean O’Brien said in a statement. “This is a sad day for workers and the American freight industry.”
No bankruptcy filings had gone live as of Tuesday afternoon. Yellow, formerly known as YRC Worldwide Inc., is one of the nation’s largest less-than-truckload carriers, which move freight that doesn't require a full truck, allowing multiple shippers to share one. The company’s reported closure puts 30,000 jobs at risk.
The bankruptcy reports have renewed attention around Yellow’s $700 million pandemic-era loan from the government, among other bills the trucker has racked up over time, and heated contract negotiations with unionized workers.
When reached by The Associated Press, Yellow did not comment directly to the bankruptcy reports, but addressed the negotiations. In a statement, a company official said the Teamsters “refused to negotiate for nine months” and accused the union of trying to “destroy” Yellow.
Here’s what you need to know.
According to Satish Jindel, president of transportation and logistics firm SJ Consulting, Yellow handled an average of 49,000 shipments per day in 2022. Last week, he estimated that number was down to between 10,000 and 15,000 daily shipments.
With customers leaving — as well reports of Yellow stopping freight pickups last week — bankruptcy would “be the end of Yellow,” Jindel told The Associated Press, noting increased risk for liquidation.
“The likelihood of them surviving and remaining solvent diminishes really by the day,” added Bruce Chan, a research director at investment banking firm Stifel.
On Thursday, Yellow said it was in talks with multiple parties about selling its third-party logistics organization.
Even if Yellow was able to sell its logistics firm, it would “not generate a sufficient amount of cash to keep them operational on any sort of permanent basis,” Chan said. “Without a major equity injection, it would be very difficult for them to survive.”
As of late March, Yellow had an outstanding debt of about $1.5 billion. Of that, $729.2 million was owed to the federal government.
In 2020, under the Trump administration, the Treasury Department granted the company a $700 million pandemic-era loan on national security grounds. Last month, a congressional probe concluded that the Treasury and Defense Departments “made missteps” in this decision — and noted that Yellow’s “precarious financial position at the time of the loan, and continued struggles, expose taxpayers to a significant risk of loss.”
The Teamsters supported the $700 million loan when it was first announced. As of June 30, Yellow had paid $67 million in cash interest on the loan, which is due in 2024, the company said.
Yellow’s current finances and prospect of bankruptcy “is probably two decades in the making,” Chan said, pointing to poor management and strategic decisions dating back to the early 2000s. “At this point, after each party has bailed them out so many times, there is a limited appetite to do that anymore.”
In May, Yellow reported a loss of $54.6 million, a decline of $1.06 per share, for its first quarter of 2023. Operating revenue was about $1.16 billion in the period.
Financial service firm Stephens estimated in an investor note last week that Yellow could be burning between $9 million and $10 million each day. Using a liquidity disclosure from July, Yellow had roughly $100 million in cash at the end of June, the note added — estimating that the company has been burning through increasing amounts of money through July.
“It is reasonable to believe that the Company could breach its $35 mil. liquidity requirement at any moment,” Stephens analyst Jack Atkins and associate Grant Smith wrote.
Last week's reports of bankruptcy preparations arrived just days after a strike from the Teamsters, which represents Yellow’s 22,000 unionized workers, was averted.
While the strike didn’t occur, talks of a walkout may have caused some Yellow customers to pull back, Chan said.
A series of heated exchanges have built up between the Teamsters and Yellow, who sued the union in June after alleging it was “unjustifiably blocking” restructuring plans needed for the company’s survival. The Teamsters called the litigation “baseless” — with O’Brien pointing to Yellow’s “decades of gross mismanagement."
On July 23, a pension fund agreed to extend health benefits for workers at two Yellow Corp. operating companies, averting a strike — and giving Yellow “30 days to pay its bills,” notably $50 million owed to the Central States Health and Welfare Fund, the union said. A Yellow spokesperson said that the company previously request a short-term deferral of the pension contributions plus interest, but the funds denied that request.
“The financial struggles of Yellow are not related to the union and the contracts,” Jindel said, pointing to management’s responsibility around its services and prices. He added the union wages from Yellow are “lower than any competitor.”
Yellow has pushed back on this. In Monday's statement, the company official said that Yellow offered to increase employee pay, but again said the Teamsters "refused to negotiate for nine months.”
As Yellow customers take their shipments to other carriers, like FedEx or ABF Freight, prices will go up.
Yellow’s prices have historically been the cheapest compared to other carriers, Jindel said. “That’s why they obviously were not making money,” he added. “And while there is capacity with the other LTL carriers to handle the diversions from Yellow, it will come at a high price for (current shippers and customers) of Yellow.”
Chan adds that we’re in an interesting time for the LTL marketplace — noting that, if Yellow liquidates, “the freight would find a home” with other carriers, which may not have been true in recent years.
“It may take time, but there’s room for it to be absorbed,” he said.