Freightliner yesterday announced plans to reduce production rates and lay off nearly 4,000 people at its U.S. and Canadian truck and parts manufacturing plants. The move was made in response to the company's expectations that heavy-duty truck sales will decline by as much as 25 percent this year.
Freightliner will discontinue third-shift operations at its truck manufacturing plants in Portland, Ore., Cleveland, N.C., Mt. Holly, N.C., and St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, as well as at its parts manufacturing plant in Portland.
The company will also discontinue weekend shifts at its parts manufacturing plant in Gastonia, N.C. The move will affect 3,745 employees effective Oct. 20 at the U.S. facilities and on Dec. 4 at the St. Thomas plant. According to published reports, that's nearly 19 percent of its North American work force, and an 18 percent drop in production.
The Portland and Cleveland plants produce Freightliner heavy-duty trucks. The Mt. Holly plant builds Freightliner medium-duty trucks, while St. Thomas produces the company's Sterling-brand heavy- and medium-duty trucks.
According to Freightliner spokeswoman Debi Nicholson, the truck manufacturing industry has experienced a significant slowdown in orders for new trucks as trucking companies struggle with high fuel prices, higher interest rates and driver shortages.
"We have made every effort to maintain high-volume production rates and retain our skilled employment base, but the market for heavy- and medium-duty trucks continues to soften," says Nicholson.
Freightliner is one of several major truck makers to announce layoffs and production cuts over the past several months.
Freightliner President and CEO Jim Hebe told Reuters that the slowdown could be indicative of things to come in the general economy.