Friday, January 9, 1998 Fredrickson shifts to keep it competitive

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    Fredrickson shifts to keep it competitive - Charlotte Business Journal:


    Fredrickson Motor Express Corp. has shuttered two terminals, shuffled executives and bolstered efforts to improve efficiency as it attempts to return to profitability.
    On Jan. 5, Fredrickson eliminated both its terminals in Alabama. The Montgomery and Birmingham operations employed 12. Whether the employees will be reassigned or laid off has not been determined.
    The closings leave Fredrickson with 26 terminals across Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
    The Charlotte-based trucking company, the state's oldest, is privately held and generates $55 million to $60 million annually.
    Bill Darwin, formerly executive vice president at Fredrickson and now operations manager, estimates the company has lost about $2 million annually "for several years." He says the company expects to post a profit in 1998.
    "We are taking steps that will make us stronger," Darwin says.
    Larry Hartsell, a Fredrickson executive, says the company lost money last year, but says he doesn't think it has lost money beyond that. He refuses further comment and refers other questions to Chief Executive John Fredrickson, grandson of the company founder. He could not be reached. Alan Smith, Fredrickson chief financial officer, also could not be reached.
    Fredrickson laid off 60 workers at year end, but Darwin says that is typical after the holiday season because shipping volume drops once Christmas is over. He says nearly all the workers were part-time, but says he has no specific breakdown of how many may have been full-time employees.
    The company has enlisted a former trucking consultant, 59-year-old Michael Hickey, to serve as chief operating officer. Hickey began his duties this month.
    He is assessing the company and says it is too early for him to say what Fredrickson's biggest challenges -- and potential solutions for them -- may be.
    "I just started, so I really don't have a lot of information to work with," Hickey says. "We're in the process of making plans."
    Experts say the trucking industry is becoming increasingly competitive.
    Dave Hartgen, a University of North Carolina at Charlotte transportation professor, says the industry is consolidating and making success for regional carriers such as Fredrickson more difficult.
    "This has always been a cutthroat business with very thin margins, and it's only getting tougher," Hartgen says. "The days when a couple of guys could buy a few trucks and launch a trucking business are long gone. It's a national industry. That's what happened to Carolina Freight."
    Carolina Freight Corp., founded in Cherryville and once among the nation's largest trucking companies, was purchased by Arkansas Best Corp. three years ago after struggling to remain a dominant regional carrier. Before the purchase, it made numerous cutbacks and eliminated jobs within several divisions.
     

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