The assets of family-owned Art Mulder & Sons Trucking (AMST) were auctioned online on Jan. 24. Orbitbid, a subsidiary of Miedema Asset Management Group, handled the online action. Some of the assets from the Holland, Michigan-based trucker included 35 semi-trucks, 108 refrigerated trailers and 38 dry van trailers.
First established in 1971 by Art Mulder, AMST gained a reputation as a refrigerated less-than-truckload carrier. However, it ceased operations in late November 2022 after more than five decades in the business. The Jan. 24 online auction served to offload the company's remaining assets.
Art's descendants worked for AMST – including his three sons Hanz, Peter and Phillip. Two of Art's grandsons also joined the company, with Chad Mulder serving as president and Greg Mulder serving as COO.
Art's three sons also established Mulder Brothers Brokerage, which specializes in the LTL market for frozen and refrigerated food, in 2008. Mulder Fleet Services, which began as an in-house fleet repair shop for AMST 30 years ago, has been operating as its own entity since 2020. AMST also tied up with the Florida-based Mandich Group to open a $31 million, 147,000-square-foot cold storage facility in Holland, Michigan in March 2022.
Greg divulged that the decision to close the company was not an easy one. But declining freight volume and plunging freight rates beginning in the late second quarter of 2022 until the third quarter of that year made the LTL trucker reevaluate its plans. (Related: Freight companies expect "muted peak season" due to waning retailer demand.)
"All of our manufacturing customers that were trying to ship stuff saw their costs going up. As they saw softening in the market, they were asking for price decreases in late Q2 and Q3, but our costs stayed the same or continue to rise," he told FreightWaves. "It didn't leave us feeling very good about 2023."
According to the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the company had 46 power units and 52 drivers in 2022. However, Greg remarked that AMST had since scaled down its fleet to around 20 trucks and drivers prior to its November 2022 closure.
The AMST executive added that the company's customers have transitioned to its logistics division, working with partner carriers in the LTL industry to transport refrigerated goods to various distribution centers. He also mentioned that many of AMST's remaining drivers were working for other carriers in the Great Lakes State within days of its layoffs in November.
AMST was not the only trucking company that shuttered in November. In Iowa, refrigerated carrier Mid Continent Trucking (MCT) emailed drivers and employees that it would close down after 24 years. The trucking firm owned by Brian and Ted Wickersham blamed worsening economic conditions and tumbling freight rates as the reason for the closure in their Nov. 16 email.
The company said all displaced employees who want to continue working have since found jobs in other firms. Paul Cromwell, MCT's safety and risk manager, told FreightWaves that he had been in contact with all drivers and had informed them of possible openings in other companies.
Meanwhile, AMST plans to keep its DOT number. Greg said the company will remain "dormant for now," but he did not rule out a comeback as an asset-based carrier if freight conditions improve.
"Our desire was always to keep a fleet. It's in our blood. It's what got us here," he said. "After 50 years of hard work and three generations working in trucking, the last thing we wanted to do was close down."
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