Truckload Carrier Watkins & Shepard Runs Out of Gas

By Alan Wolf

Watkins & Shepard Trucking, considered a delivery backbone for furniture retailers, appears to have ceased operations.

The plug was pulled this month by truckload and logistics giant Schneider National Inc. as part of the shutdown of its First To Final Mile (FTFM) operations. The unit was formed in 2016 with the acquisition of Watkins, a 45-year-old truckload and less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier. Despite what it called “significant investments” in its final-mile unit, Schneider said operating results for the segment were “significantly below expectations.” Losses for the division swelled to $26 million in the first half of the year and are projected to hit $9 million for the third quarter, the company reported.

Schneider said the shutdown would affect 26 terminals and that it would try to reassign displaced workers to other positions within the company. “We are looking at all opportunities to redeploy our affected associates based on role, geography, and business need,” it stated in a second quarter earnings release.

Also shuttered is Schneider’s last-mile Lodeso business, acquired at the same time as Watkins, which connected retailers and manufacturers with a network of some 600 carriers and provided white-glove customer services including furniture delivery, assembly, positioning and haul away.

According to a report in FreightWaves, Watkins & Shepard boasted a fleet of 943 trucks, 2,043 trailers and 781 drivers. The operation will be completely shuttered by the end of the year, leaving furniture dealers scrambling to find an alternative carrier.

“There isn’t a single furniture retailer that doesn’t rely on Watkins to some degree,” a longtime e-tail customer told FreightWaves, who counted on the carrier for more than 70 percent of his inventory.

Michael Allen, VP Home Furnishings for BrandSource, said final-mile service is more of an issue for pure-play e-commerce companies than for BrandSource members, who have their own delivery trucks. However, “A lot of our dealers use Watkins to get product to their stores from California and North Carolina,” he said, citing its competitive rates and LTL capabilities.

The shutdown is expected to be a boon to Schneider rival J.B. Hunt Transport Services, the carrier giant that also provides truckload, LTL and final-mile services to retailers.

Schneider said all FTFM freight that’s currently in its possession will be delivered “as expeditiously as practical.” It offered no further comment on Watkins & Shepard’s status.

YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.