Freightliner Announces More Layoffs In North Carolina

Truck manufacturer laying off 260 employees at Gastonia plant; considering 500 layoffs from Mount Holly facility.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Truck manufacturer Freightliner LLC said Tuesday it will lay off 260 workers at its Gastonia plant by the end of March, on top of the 1,160 positions the company said last week it would eliminate at a Rowan County plant.

A state Commerce Department spokesman said late Tuesday the company also is considering laying off more than 500 workers at its nearby plant in Mount Holly, but a Freightliner spokesman said no decision had been made on that operation.

The layoffs at the Gastonia parts plant, which currently employs about 1,200 workers west of Charlotte, will be effective March 30, the company said in a written statement.

Freightliner, a unit of DaimlerChrysler AG, has said the job eliminations are part of the company's announcement last month to make production rate adjustments at its North American plants that could affect more than 4,000 workers.

One local official was optimistic that the Gastonia jobs could return.

''We've been expecting that there were going to be layoffs,'' said Darlene Ritter of the Gaston County Economic Development Commission. ''The Freightliner plants have been very cyclic. We always hope that it's going to be short-lived.''

The Portland, Ore.-based company is dealing with falling orders because buyers have been hesitant to purchase trucks equipped with new and expensive technology to curb diesel exhaust emissions. New standards governing diesel emissions in the U.S. and Canada took effect Jan. 1.

''This results in a steep drop in demand, and thus fewer workers are needed to assemble trucks,'' company spokeswoman Amy Sills said.

Commerce Department officials specializing in responding to large layoffs met in recent days with Freightliner officials to discuss the Gastonia layoffs and a potential loss of 520 workers at the Mount Holly plant, which makes the Class 2 medium-duty vehicle, agency spokesman Gregory Thomas said.

Nothing has been decided and the company is monitoring the situation in Mount Holly, a town about 10 miles east of Gastonia.

''Orders for medium-duty vehicles have proven to be more robust than what was expected,'' Sills said.

Freightliner is the largest manufacturer in Rowan County, where job losses at the Cleveland heavy-duty truck plant were announced Friday.

Associated Press writer Mike Baker in Raleigh contributed to this report.

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