Trucking company Yellow Corp. has recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, further underscoring the financial struggles and mounting debt it has faced in recent years. This development marks a notable turning point for both the U.S. transportation industry and shippers nationwide.
Yellow’s financial woes predate the pandemic, even though they received $700 million in federal loans during that time. Industry analysts attribute their downfall to longstanding mismanagement and misguided strategic decisions.
As former customers and shippers explore alternative options like FedEx or ABF Freight, experts predict that they will face higher prices. This is due to Yellow’s historical reputation for offering the most competitive pricing in the industry.
Yellow’s CEO, Darren Hawkins, conveyed deep disappointment in a late Sunday news release announcing the company’s closure. He emphasized the company’s long-standing legacy of providing hundreds of thousands of Americans with stable, well-paying jobs and rewarding careers.
Formerly known as YRC Worldwide Inc., Yellow is among the largest less-than-truckload carriers in the nation, operating out of Nashville, Tennessee. The company currently employs approximately 30,000 individuals across the country.
The Teamsters, who represent Yellow’s 22,000 unionized workers, revealed that the company ceased operations in late July after laying off hundreds of nonunion employees.
Reports from The Wall Street Journal and FreightWaves had already anticipated Yellow’s bankruptcy in late July. Customers had already started to defection considerable numbers, and the carrier had ceased freight pickups, signaling impending financial turmoil.
The Troubles of Yellow Corp.
Yellow Corp. experienced difficulties when negotiating contracts with the Teamsters, resulting in a strike threat. To avert this situation, a pension fund came forward to extend health benefits for workers at two Yellow Corp. operating companies. Although this prevented the planned walkout, Yellow Corp. was given a strict deadline of 30 days to pay its outstanding bills, including $50 million owed to the Central States Health and Welfare Fund.
The company attributes its current downfall to the elongated nine-month-long negotiation process. During this time, Yellow Corp. could not implement a new business strategy to modernize its operations and enhance competitiveness.
Yellow Corp. has accumulated substantial debts over the years, with an outstanding debt of approximately $1.5 billion as of late March. In particular, the company owes $729.2 million to the federal government. In 2020, under the Trump administration, Yellow Corp. received a $700 million pandemic-era loan based on national security grounds.
A subsequent congressional investigation revealed that the Treasury and Defense departments made errors in granting the loan. It highlighted the significant risk of taxpayers losing their funds due to Yellow Corp.’s precarious financial state at the time of loan approval.
The government loan provided to Yellow Corp. is due for repayment in September 2024. However, as of March, Yellow Corp. has only repaid $230 million of the principal, despite making interest payments totaling $54.8 million, according to government documents.
Roots of the Crisis
According to Bruce Chan, the research director at Stifel, Yellow Corp.’s financial chaos traces back over two decades. The company’s poor management and strategic decisions since the early 2000s have contributed to its current predicament. Moreover, after multiple financial bailouts, there is now limited willingness to offer further assistance.
Yellow Corp.’s recent troubles highlight the pressing challenges it faces in terms of financial stability and operational modernization. With mounting debts, overdue payments, and limited support from stakeholders, the future remains uncertain for the company. Acting swiftly to address these issues and implement a robust business plan may be crucial for Yellow Corp. to regain its footing in the industry.