BARRE - A company that got its start trucking granite for Barre area manufacturers back in 1974 has suspended that end of its operation.
Ron Elliard, a spokesman for Granite Importers Inc., said the company laid off its five drivers and sidelined its 12-truck fleet earlier today in response to an economic downturn that has taken its toll on the local granite industry.
“This really did come as a last resort for us,” he said. “We didn’t want to do this.”
Elliard said he hoped the lay-offs would be temporary and Granite Importers transport division would could be revived when the economy rebounds.
“We’re grounding them until we can get more business,” he said.
Although drivers were informed of the decision this morning, Elliard said it could not have come as a complete surprise since the company’s trucks have been for sale for two months and remain on the market.
“They were, like all of us, in hopes that we would never have to sell the trucks,” he said of the drivers.
Elliard acknowledged it may not come to that, but said the company, which also runs a manufacturing plant, could no longer sustain losses associated with what had become a growing number of “dead-headed” loads.
“We have to be full on both trips,” he said, explaining that making long-distance pickups, but riding down with empty trucks was not sustainable financially.
Elliard said the recent revival of rail traffic in central Vermont put a detectable, but as yet unquantifiable, dent in trucking business, as area manufacturers have sought to cut costs by using the comparatively low-cost rail to transport everything from finished memorials to rough-cut granite blocks.
“It’s definitely had an impact,” he said. “We haven’t been able to find loads to take from here to there.”
When and if Granite Importers revives its transport business, Elliard said it will factor local rail service into the equation.
“Our model will change completely,” he said, predicting long-distance hauling will for the most part give way to trucking within the region.
Elliard said the decision to suspend operation of Granite Importers Transport - a wholly owned subsidiary of Granite Importers Inc. - was not a reflection of the company’s manufacturing operation.
“We’re strong,” he said. “We’re doing well.”
All five workers, who were laid off today were members of the local chapter of the United Steelworkers of America. A union representative said he was looking into ways to assist the drivers.
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