The slowing U.S. market for heavy trucks is taking an even deeper bite out of Kenworth Truck, the Seattle Times reported Sunday, March 25. More than 140 workers at the Paccar-owned truck maker’s plant in Renton, Wash., will be laid off early next month, on top of about 340 layoffs earlier this year, and the plant also will shut down for at least two weeks, a union representative told the newspaper.
The plant’s “build rate” will drop from 30 trucks a day to 18, according to Bernie Philips, business agent for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Machinists are the largest single group of workers at the plant.
Paccar treasurer Robin Easton told the Times the layoffs and “shutdown days” are part of broader cutbacks at its Kenworth and Peterbilt divisions. Paccar-owned plants in Ohio, Texas and Tennessee also will be affected, he told the Times. Easton declined to specify how many workers would be laid off, locally or nationally.
But Philips told the Times about 140 of his members would be laid off as of April 3, out of more than 360 at the plant. Other union workers at the plant — such as Teamsters, painters and sheet-metal workers — also will lose their jobs, as will salaried workers. The cuts are needed “to balance production levels with lower industry demand,” Easton told the Times.
Paccar and other truck makers posted record sales last year, as trucking companies rushed to buy ahead of tighter federal engine-emissions rules that took effect this year. As a consequence, truck sales this year are expected to be far lower: Paccar’s estimate for the entire U.S. and Canadian market is 200,000 to 230,000 heavy trucks, versus an estimated 320,000 last year.
In January, Paccar eliminated one shift each at the Kenworth plant in Renton and its Peterbilt plant outside Nashville, Tenn., laying off about 1,000 workers in total. Paccar expects truck demand to pick up in the second half of this year; if it does, Easton told the Times, the laid-off workers are eligible to be called back.