NEW YORK (AP) -- Trucking company Arkansas Best Corp. laid off 1,100 employees in the fourth quarter of 2008 and another 350 in January as freight demand declined, Chief Financial Officer Judy R. McReynolds said Wednesday.
Speaking at the BB&T Transportation Services Conference, McReynolds said the Fort Smith, Ark.-based company has reduced its staff by 18 percent since the fourth-quarter of 2006, when many industry observers believe that a U.S. freight recession began. As of the end of last year, the company had 10,342 employees.
McReynolds said the reductions were necessary to trim costs as shipment weights declined and demand fell off across the industry. Arkansas Best has also reduced the number of regions it serves to 10 from 12 as it streamlined its operations.
She said the company will continue to look at these and other areas to ensure the company is effectively managing costs.
Trucking companies have been hit by a steep downturn in consumer spending, lower manufacturing activity and a weak housing market. Trucking tonnage is considered a key indicator of overall economic activity, because trucks carry about 70 percent of all retail and manufactured goods in the U.S.
Shares of Arkansas Best closed Tuesday at $24.28. The stock has traded between $19.41 and $45.13 in the past year.