P.A.M. Transportation lays off 75 employees, mostly nondrivers

P.A.M. Transportation truck on highway

P.A.M. Transportation Services (NASDAQ: PTSI) confirmed it has temporarily laid off approximately 75 employees, mostly “non-essential to daily operations” in response to recent coronavirus-related auto plant closures.

Responding to an email from FreightWaves, P.A.M. Transportation CEO Dan Cushman said 65 employees were laid off on Friday, “very few” of whom were drivers. Cushman said he doesn’t anticipate a “wave 2” of layoffs but that “about 10 employees” were released from duty Tuesday.

Cushman said the reduction in staff was directly related to “auto plants shutting down.”

The dry van truckload (TL) carrier, which gets much of its revenue from the country’s largest original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), is used to adjusting operations and staffing levels as OEM production schedules change.

In its third-quarter 2019 earnings report released in October, the Tontitown, Arkansas-based carrier announced that it had successfully redeployed “approximately 400 drivers affected” by the United Auto Workers labor strike against General Motors (NYSE: GM), which began on Sept. 16. During the GM strike, the company leaned on its sales team to find replacement freight to keep those drivers seated in trucks.

The six-week strike resulted in losing only 12 of those 400 drivers. In that time period, the company actually increased its overall driver count by six. During the fourth quarter of 2019, P.A.M. Transportation had an average driver count of 2,112 including owner-operators, an 83-driver increase year-over-year.

In 2019, P.A.M. Transportation’s five largest customers accounted for approximately 40% of total revenue — General Motors represented 19%, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE: FCAU) accounted for 9% and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) contributed 7%. The other two customers are not listed by name in the company’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

40% of the company’s 2019 total revenue derived from transportation services to the automobile industry.

Through a myriad of obstacles in 2019 that included border-crossing delays, the GM strike and a lawsuit, the carrier remained profitable, posting full-year net income of $7.9 million. Excluding the impact of a lawsuit settlement over minimum wage law violations, the carrier ended the year with adjusted net income of $23.4 million, basically flat with 2018.

Cushman said the transportation industry “stands together” in “this great time of need,” referencing the company’s recent collaboration with other carriers to create load boards and discuss other opportunities.

“We have reached out to our entire customer base and I have reached out to my friends in the industry and the response has been great. There does not seem to be any sense of a ‘competitor’ mentality,” Cushman added.

Cushman said those “friends in the industry” include many members of the Arkansas Trucking Association, like ArcBest (NASDAQ: ARCB), USA Truck (NASDAQ: USAK), FedEx (NYSE: FDX), CalArk, Walmart (NYSE: WMT), J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT) and non-Arkansas-based carriers like U.S. Xpress (NYSE: USX) and Dart Transit.

P.A.M. Transportation has made moves to bolster its cross-border business in 2020, given an expected increase in automotive-related cross-border shipments. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was signed into law on Jan. 29, mandates an increase in the percentage of North American duty-free produced automotive parts from 62.5% to 75% by 2023.

At the end of January, P.A.M. Transportation acquired bankrupt carrier Celadon Group’s 53-acre Laredo, Texas, terminal for $19.8 million. In February, the carrier was listed in court filings as the potential buyer of Celadon’s Mexican business, including carrier Jaguar Transportation, in a proposed $7 million deal.

However, Cushman said Tuesday that the company has ended its efforts to acquire Jaguar.

P.A.M. Transportation already owns a cross-dock facility in Laredo near the World Trade Bridge, approximately 12 miles from the newly acquired facility.

“I’m optimistic we will be back full strength soon,” concluded Cushman.

Shares of PTSI were up 11% late Tuesday afternoon but have lost roughly half their value since the market selloff began in the last week of February.