Freightliner to lay off 675 in Gaston

Freightliner announced Friday it will lay off about 675 workers at its Mount Holly truck manufacturing plant, effective Oct. 31.

The plant employs 1,145 workers, who received word of the move under the WARN Act, according to a news release. Plant operations will be scaled back from two shifts to one shift per day.

Employment at commercial truck plants often swings up and down depending on sales. For instance, in April, Portland, Ore.-based Freightliner, a division of Daimler AG, announced it would eliminate a shift and lay off 1,500 at its plant in Rowan County. But then earlier this month, the company announced it would recall 650 workers to the same plant and add a partial second shift.

In early 2007, Freightliner announced it would cut 478 jobs in Mount Holly; the company also cut 260 jobs at the plant in 2005.

According to the release, the Mount Holly plant has been operating on a periodic shutdown basis since April 2007 due to the prolonged slowdown in the North American economy and reduced demand for medium-duty trucks, which are often used in the construction industry. The release noted there are no prospects for a recovery in market conditions in the near future.

The Mount Holly plant manufactures a full line of medium-duty Freightliner Business Class M2 models.

“This is certainly bad news,” said Mount Holly Mayor Robert Whitt. “I really hate it and it couldn't have come at a worse time for the families in Gaston County.”

Whitt said Freightliner's local plant has been consistently up and down. However, he said, “I feel certain it will pull back up again.”

In the meantime, he said, he hoped local churches and community relief organizations will be preparing to meet the needs of the families involved.

Staff writer Jen Aronoff contributed.