But complications stemming from the bankruptcies could spell problems from the factory gate to the showroom floor. The Teamsters union represents truckers at both companies and has vowed to protect workers' interests. In any case, it seems inevitable that the cost of shipping cars and light trucks will rise.
"The economics right now obviously don't work," PTS CEO Jeff Cornish told Automotive News during an interview last week at the company's suburban Detroit headquarters. "We're either not getting enough for what we do, or our costs are too high."
Three messages left by Automotive News at Allied's public relations agency were not returned.
Both Allied and PTS carried considerable debt. About $150 million of Allied's $330 million in funded debt stems from its 1997 acquisition of Ryder Automotive Group, court documents said. PTS has been growing since its inception in 1999, capped by its 2004 acquisition of Leaseway Motorcar Transport Co. It has about $113 million in bank debt, not including other credit letters.
But, like other bankrupt suppliers, Allied and PTS felt blowback from the troubles of GM and Ford. Including DaimlerChrysler, domestic automakers accounted for 73 percent of Allied delivery revenues.
PTS was equally dependent on Detroit car companies, with Ford having about 40 percent of its business and GM 30 percent.
"The car hauler is the direct extension of the assembly line," said Robert Farrell, executive director of the Automobile Carriers Conference in Alexandria, Va. "If the plants go down, we don't have a car to haul."
Allied posted a $53.9 million net loss for the 2004 calendar year, after losing $8.6 million in 2003, according to court documents. In the run-up to its bankruptcy filing on July 31, 2005, the hauler, based in Decatur, Ga., lost more than $10 million in the first quarter of 2005.
Privately held PTS last reported a net profit in 2002. Court documents say PTS lost $1.3 million to $7.2 million per quarter in recent years.
Last summer was particularly bruising, as fuel prices spiked and a 2 percent wage increase for both companies' union workers kicked in. Allied and PTS are governed by the same master agreement with the Teamsters that runs through May 2008.
Cornish said that when external pressures cause fuel prices to skyrocket, haulers can put a surcharge on their delivery fees, but those fees sometimes have caps.
Farrell added that when automakers pay more for shipping, they can jack up the destination charges consumers pay.
Even last summer's sales rush with employee discount deals didn't help. Cornish said the sales cleared out inventories, but there wasn't a significant bump in deliveries, as many of the vehicles were already on lots.