Friday, May 26, 2006

FedEx announces acquisition of Watkins Motor Lines

FedEx Corp. announced Friday that it is buying Watkins Motor Lines for $780 million.

"This acquisition will extend our leadership position in the heavy freight sector and provide new growth opportunities for the business," said Frederick W. Smith, FedEx chairman, president and CEO, in a statement. "Our customers have increasingly asked us to provide a broader range of transportation and supply chain services, and as a result of this acquisition, we will be in a better position to meet their expectations."

Lakeland, Fla.-based Watkins Motor Lines is a privately held provider of long-haul less-than-truckload carrier. The company's annual revenues total over $1 billion; it employs a work force of 10,000 employees and was founded in 1932.

Under the deal, which is expected to close in first quarter 2007, Watkins will be rebranded as FedEx National LTL and will operate as a separate network within the FedEx Freight division. FedEx is also acquiring the assets of Watkins' Canadian arm, Watkins Canada Express, and will rename it FedEx Freight Canada. Watkins management will remain in place with Chip Watkins serving as president. He will report to Patrick L. Reed, executive vice president and chief operating officer of FedEx Freight, who has responsibility for all LTL operations in the U.S.

Douglas G. Duncan, president and CEO of FedEx Freight, said Watkins' services are complementary to FedEx Freight, and the addition of Watkins' three-day or more long-haul service to FedEx Freight's industry-leading next-day and second-day regional LTL service will extend FedEx's leadership position in the freight sector.

"This acquisition is an opportunity to do more business with our current shippers and to target new customers with a comprehensive LTL solution, allowing us to grow faster than the industry in which we operate," Duncan said.

Teamsters Call on Governors to Adopt Veteran-Friendly Legislation

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa proposed that 45 state governors follow federal regulations (49 CFR 383.77) to enact measures that will allow the states to grant military personnel a commercial driving license when they have had qualifying training during their service.

In letters that the governors received this week, Hoffa asked them to help veterans return to the workforce and apply the valuable training they received from the government.

"As the country pays respect this Memorial Day weekend to our men and women in the military who died in the service of our country, these 45 states should also make a true effort to help our soldiers use the training they received in the military," Hoffa said. "We shouldn't be placing roadblocks in the way of these national heroes when they return and re-enter the workforce."

Five states including Minnesota, Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Rhode Island recognize specialized skills veterans gain from service and military training. With the lack of qualified drivers available in the industry, these soldiers offer an immediate and qualified population of drivers.

"For the sake of our veterans and their families, I ask that states adopt these measures as soon as possible," Hoffa said. "This would not only 'Keep America's Promise' and help repay our debt to those who have sacrificed and served our country in time of war, but would also ensure applicants have the skills necessary to safely handle commercial vehicles on our nation's highways."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

FedEx near to acquire trucking company

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Package delivery company FedEx Corp. is near to completing a deal to buy a Florida-based trucking company for up to $1 billion, according to local media reports.

Reports that Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx is in talks to acquire privately-held carrier Watkins Motor Lines surfaced in the Lakeland Ledger and the Memphis Commercial Appeal earlier this week. The articles were later cited in analyst reports.

FedEx and Watkins, based in Lakeland, Florida, just east of Tampa, declined to discuss the reports.

"We do not comment on market rumors," FedEx spokesman Howard Clabo told Reuters.

Analysts estimate Watkins generated just over $1 billion in revenue in 2005. Like FedEx, Watkins is a non-union carrier. As a so-called less-than-truckload (LTL) shipper, it consolidates smaller loads into a single truck shipment.

FedEx already has its own LTL unit, FedEx Freight, which it built out of three trucking company acquisitions between 1998 and 2001. The unit has high margins - 11 percent in fiscal year 2005, compared with 8.4 percent for the whole group - and revenue of $3.2 billion in 2005.

In a research note, BB&T analysts John Barnes and Adam Thalhimer wrote: "While we don't generally like to comment on speculative events, this particular rumor has been reported in the press in recent days, perhaps supporting its credibility."

"We like the sound of this potential deal," they wrote, adding that Watkins' experience with long-haul LTL service could augment FedEx's regional LTL business.

If an acquisition does take place, they said the purchase price could be between $700 million and $900 million.

Morgan Stanley analysts Chad Bruso and James Valentine wrote the acquisition could have negative implications for competing LTL carriers YRC Worldwide Inc. and Arkansas Best Corp.

In a research note Edward Wolfe of investment bank Bear Stearns said the "potential purchase of a long-haul LTL carrier makes sense from a strategic basis and would be accretive to (FedEx's) earnings."

FedEx shares closed down 36 cents on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange at $107.32. According to market research firm Track Data, FedEx options sentiment was mixed and volumes were within their normal range.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

USF Companies Enhance Operations with Vettro FieldMaster

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

On-Demand Mobile Application Connects Drivers Directly to Enterprise Dispatch Systems via Standard Java Phones.

Vettro, a global leader in on-demand mobile business applications, today announced drivers of USF Bestway, USF Holland and USF Reddaway are using Vettro FieldMaster on Java-enabled handsets to improve fleet operations and enhance customer service. Vettro FieldMaster is available for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Java-enabled phones running on all major carriers globally.

The technology deployment enables the USF regional carriers, which are all part of YRC Regional Transportation, to streamline pickup and delivery scheduling and routing by directly integrating the company's dispatch system with Vettro's FieldMaster application. The on-demand mobile application dispatches manifest information directly to the driver, and captures status updates throughout the day to improve visibility into field operations. Detailed driver activity data is also updated in the enterprise back-end system for reporting and analysis.

Mike Naatz, Senior Vice President for YRC Enterprise Services, said the change is designed to help USF enhance customer service and allow for online reporting of shipment status, reducing call center volume.

"Vettro FieldMaster has made a positive impression on our customers, our drivers and our management," said Naatz. "Since the initial roll-out, Vettro and the USF regional providers have also worked closely together to implement additional enhancements."

Naatz said minimizing paper-based processes and reliance on voice communications between drivers and dispatchers for each pickup and delivery can reduce inefficiencies and their related costs.

"YRC Regional Transportation is setting the standard as a leader in the transportation industry, and we're excited to be a part of its growth," said Joe Rymsza, President and CEO of Vettro. "Serving outstanding companies such as USF Bestway, USF Holland and USF Reddaway allows us to partner with the best in the business to maintain Vettro's standard of quality throughout our engineering, delivery, and support processes."

Vettro FieldMaster can be updated, and even deleted, completely over the wireless network, ensuring minimal administrative costs required to maintain the mobile application. Additionally, the application remains fully accessible even outside of wireless coverage areas, and all data captured offline is automatically re-transmitted when the user moves back into coverage.

Vettro FieldMaster is architected to seamlessly integrate with advanced mobile capabilities such as GPS or Bluetooth to provide location-based services, bar code scanning, printing, and point-of-sale as business needs dictate. The application can connect with a variety of existing back-end systems, including dispatch, inventory or asset management, customer service management, and billing or invoicing, to unlock the full returns on enterprise IT investments.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Blaney to Pilot the ABF U-Pack Moving Chevrolet

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting ABF Freight System, Inc., and Braun Racing have selected NEXTEL Cup regular Dave Blaney to pilot their remaining races of the 2006 season. “With the newly established long term relationship between Jason Leffler and Great Clips, this move allows us to expand our program and driver line up with a NEXTEL Cup driver, while building the relationship in place with ABF and Jason,” stated team owner Todd Braun. ABF will continue to be a part of the new 38 program with Jason, but will rely on Blaney to bring the No. 32 ABF U-Pack Moving Chevy to Victory Lane beginning at Charlotte this weekend.

Blaney currently drives the No. 22 Caterpillar Car for Bill Davis Racing in the NEXTEL Cup series, and frequents the Busch Series in the No. 31 Whelen Dodge on occasion.

“We are excited about adding Dave Blaney to our racing program. With his great reputation and ability to race up front, it allows us a great opportunity to continue building the awareness of ABF U-Pack Moving,” stated marketing director Danny Loe.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hoffa, Teamster Leaders Rally With DHL and ABX Air Workers

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingUnion Working to Ensure Strong Jobs, Demands Workers' Organizing Be Unobstructed

Approximately 300 DHL and ABX Air, Inc. employees rallied with Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and other union leaders today, demonstrating solidarity for ABX Air employees fighting to build unions at their workplace. The 1,200 ABX Air aircraft mechanics and 5,000 workers in ABX Air's sort center are working to join the Teamsters in order to gain respect and a voice on the job.

"Let me be clear: we're talking about ensuring that American workers have strong jobs today and in the future," Hoffa said. "We're going to get good jobs here and we'll watch this company and Wilmington grow."

The union's goal is to include all workers who deliver for DHL -- including employees at ABX Air, DHL's major cargo carrier-under Teamster contracts. Already, more than 12,000 workers in the DHL system are Teamsters. "We represent ABX Air pilots, drivers at DHL and its ICCs [independent cartage carriers], and workers at the DHL gateways. The workers organizing as Teamsters in Wilmington is the next logical step," said Hoffa.

"People here are going through the same thing we went through," said Don Schmidt, a sorter at DHL gateway at JFK Airport in New York City. "But I tell every worker I meet at ABX Air: 'I went through exactly what you're going through, but you can build your union, and you have the full support of the Teamsters behind you.'"

Approximately 750 ABX Air pilots are members of Teamsters Local 1224 in Wilmington. Their contract provides pilots with the highest rate of pay in the air transportation industry. The union has made Ohio a central location in its quest to represent workers across the range of the DHL delivery system, organizing numerous ICCs in a statewide push.

Rally attendees marched to ABX's administration building and presented a signed poster, demanding the company respect its workers' goal of unionizing.

Teamster members from UPS and other companies joined Teamster leaders, including Jeff Farmer, Teamsters Director Organizing, Cheryl Johnson, director of the Teamsters Human Rights Department, Don Treichler, Teamsters Airline Division Director and Roger Insprucker, President of the Ohio Council of Teamsters.