650 Freightliner employees will be called back

Freightliner plans to bring back about 650 employees to its Cleveland, N.C., truck plant next month, recalling a big chunk of the roughly 1,500 workers who were laid off in April.

The Rowan County plant will get a partial second shift starting Sept. 2. Employees report to work Aug. 18 for training and orientation.

The recall is in response to recent increases in orders for the new Class 8 Cascadia truck made at the plant, located about 40 miles north of Charlotte, said Amy Sills, a spokeswoman for Daimler Trucks North America, in a statement. The Portland, Ore.-based Freightliner is a division of German-based Daimler AG.

Sills also said “the North American commercial vehicle industry remains depressed across all market segments,” suggesting further recalls may be unlikely unless Freightliner sees another boost in orders. The current recall will give the Cleveland plant 1,985 workers.

Two months ago, Freightliner laid off about 1,500 of the roughly 2,900 workers at the plant – one of Rowan County's largest employers. The layoff was the most in North Carolina since Philip Morris said last summer it would close its Concord cigarette plant, where about 2,500 people worked.

Heavy-duty truck manufacturing regularly experiences rises and falls in employment based on sales, and the June layoff was exacerbated by a slowdown in consumer spending and home construction.

A year earlier, Freightliner laid off about 1,200 workers in Cleveland when it went from three shifts to two.

Rowan County's unemployment rate in June was 6.4 percent, up from 5.7 percent in June 2007, according to data from the N.C. Employment Security Commission.