TForce Freight has turned back up the speeds of some trucks in a small victory for drivers angered over the LTL carrier’s move to slow down its fleet by 3 mph, FreightWaves has learned.
TFI International-owned TForce increased the maximum speed to 72 mph of sleeper cab trucks based at its Houston terminal during the past week, sources said.
The change came following requests from drivers who complained they were running out of hours on longer runs that previously could be completed within 24 hours.
“When you slow the trucks down, you add that much more time,” a TForce driver said on the condition of anonymity. “It makes it very, very hard for them to make the trip.”
While it affects a small portion of TForce’s roughy 7,000 trucks, the issue of how fast trucks get to run has emerged as one of the early flashpoints between management and drivers since TFI (NYSE:TFII) acquired UPS Freight in April.
TForce’s decision to cut truck speeds from 68 to 65 mph sparked outrage among drivers, who complained that change forced them to work longer hours for the same amount of money — or take home less altogether. TFI CEO Alain Bédard has said the company reduced truck speeds in the interest of safety and cutting costs.
The Teamsters, which represents most of the drivers, responded with a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that TForce broke labor law by implementing the speed reduction without bargaining consulting the union.
NLRB tells TForce, Teamsters to hash out speed dispute
In November, an NLRB official issued a decision to postpone further action on the complaint, saying it should be settled through the grievance process under the Teamsters’ UPS Freight contract with UPS, which has remained in force following TFI’s acquisition. Such decisions, called Collyer deferral letters, are issued commonly when the NLRB believes complaints can be handled without government intervention.
Timothy Watson, an NLRB regional director, told lawyers the Teamsters and TForce that he made the decision, in part, because the company “is willing to process a grievance concerning the issues in the charge and will arbitrate the grievance if necessary,” according to a Nov. 16 letter, which FreightWaves obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Both TFI and the Teamsters declined to comment on the decision, as well as the increase of truck speeds in Houston. But the NLRB decision suggests that the two sides will be attempting to hash out the reduction in truck speeds.
Ultimately, grievances can go before a panel with equal numbers of union and company representatives, according to the National Master UPS Freight Agreement. If they fail to reach an agreement, either side can refer the matter to binding arbitration.
TFI acquired UPS Freight for $800 million in April in the Canadian company’s largest deal in its history. The company has moved aggressively to improve the profitability of the long-struggling LTL operation, rebranded as TForce Freight, bringing its operating ratio from 99% — barely profitable — to just over 90% within a matter of months largely by targeting low-yield freight.
TFI is also beginning to pare down the vast terminal network and is folding TForce’s dedicated truckload division into CFI.
Bedard has told financial analysts that TForce’s predominately unionized workforce doesn’t pose a barrier to TFI’s efforts to improve profitability.
“We work with the union,” Bédard said in February. “We respect the contract, but we respect the business.”