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Yellow Trucking Turns $700M Pandemic Loan into Bankruptcy

Employers suffering from South Dakota’s workforce shortage have another 150 candidates available in Sioux Falls as Nashville-based trucking firm Yellow/YRC Freight has shut down operations and is preparing to declare bankruptcy. the 150 laid-off workers in Sioux Falls are just a sliver of the 30,000 Yellow employees now seeking alternative employment opportunities nationwide.

The primary reason for the 99-year-old company’s collapse is obviously their complete failure of branding:

Yellow truck.
Yellow truck.

Your company is Yellow. Your logo and trucks are orange. What were you thinking?!

Yellow lost $104 million in 2019, then kept itself afloat with a $700-million CARES Act loan in 2020. To make that pandemic loan happen, the Trump Administration had to stretch the definition of “critical to national security” to apply to Yellow, one of whose big backers had ties to Trump:

Yellow is backed by Apollo Global Management, a large private-equity firm whose founder, Joshua Harris, advised the Trump administration on infrastructure policy in 2017, the New York Times reported. Apollo also lent $184 million to the family real estate company of Jared Kushner, a top White House aide and Trump’s son-in-law.

…Yellow was seen as a controversial recipient because of the size of the loan, its possible connections to the White House via Apollo, and because its services could feasibly be replaced by any number of national logistics companies. If Yellow went belly-up, another trucking company could step in, critics argued.

The Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog agency, found several discrepancies in how Yellow was treated by the government compared with other companies applying for aid. Treasury fast tracked the loan to Yellow “due to the urgency of the business’s financial circumstances,” the office found, even though other companies faced similarly dire circumstances. And the loan was negotiated and executed by Treasury staff who were “not otherwise involved in the loan program,” it said.

Yellow has since used the Treasury loan, in part, to pay for capital investments, including new tractors and trailers to upgrade its aging fleet, according to company statements.

This year it also hired Heather Nauert, who was a State Department spokeswoman during the Trump administration. Nauert said in an email that she works “with a range of clients and began advising Yellow in early 2021” [Yeganeh Torbati and Aaron Gregg, “Pandemic Loan to Troubled Trucking Company Had Trump White House Backing, Emails Show,” Washington Post, 2021.10.06].

According to the 2022 report of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, the Pentagon initially opposed the Yellow loan, saying they had plenty of other shippers and noting they’d already been bilked by the firm:

In announcing the $700 million loan, then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin described YRC as a “critical vendor” to the Defense Department.

But the subcommittee report said career Defense Department officials doubted whether Yellow Corp. was indeed critical for national security.

The report said that Mnuchin requested an urgent call with then-Defense Department Secretary Mark Esper on June 25, 2020.

That was one day after Defense Department officials told the Treasury Department it would not certify Yellow Corp. to receive the loan. A Defense Department analysis said other trucking companies could replace Yellow’s work for the federal government and they were concerned about a Justice Department lawsuit alleging Yellow had overbilled its services to the Defense Department.

Yellow settled that case last month for $6.8 million without admitting wrongdoing.

The report said after his call with Mnuchin, Esper certified Yellow as critical to national security. On July 1, 2020, Yellow Corp. received the loan [Steve Vockrodt and Dan Margolies, “KC-Area Trucking Company Got $700M Federal Loan over Pentagon Objections, House Report Says,” St. Louis Public Radio, 2022.04.27].

According to the audit published May 11, 2023, by the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery, Yellow was the only trucking company among “Tier 1” borrowers, the rest of whom were seven airlines. Yellow and JetBlue were the last firms to apply in April 2020; Yellow’s loan was approved almost three months before any of the airlines’ loans.

As of March 15, Yellow had paid us $54.8 million in interest but only $230 of the principal, 0.000033% of the $700 million we taxpayers loaned them. Yellow’s total debt in March was $1.5 billion. Yellow reported a 2023 Q1 net loss of $54.6 million. Yellow was supposed to pay back the CARES Act loan by September 2024.

If Uncle Sam can jump ahead of other creditors, we could foreclose on Yellow’s fleet of 13,800 tractors and 43,400 trailers and, at maybe $75K per truck and $4K per trailer, sell them off for over a billion dollars. Or maybe we could just eat the loss and give away the Yellow trucks to the laid-off Yellow employees who say they want to become independent truckers.


  1. ABC 2023-07-29 11:48

    Pandemic capitalism. Millions for businesses, wages paid, don’t pay us back. Just $2400 for humans?

    The virus Covid 19 enabled Trump to fund the virus capitalism with billions in pandemic loans, while the host (humans) who received the Covid 19 virus only got two $1200 payments.

    If humans can’t create something better than capitalism (social businesses and micro finance by Mohammed Yunus, perhaps), then the AI on your cell phone might create a better way! (

    Slavery. Feudalism. Capitalism. Next? We will create it, everyone prospers.

  2. Scott anderson 2023-07-29 12:24

    I will take one of the tractors if not take the rest of the money and split it up for the employees

  3. Arlo Blundt 2023-07-29 13:34

    I see these trucks all over, especially driving in the South. I thought they were a reputable trucking firm. I was never run off the road by a Yellow truck. The stretch of I-75 between Nashville and Atlanta looks like a Ukrainian war zone with truck parts and blown tire debris all over the road, side rails ripped up, trucks in ditches and a tow truck pulling a semi out of the trees every 20 miles. Truck stop people blame “Mexican trucks and Mexican drivers”. What would we do if we couldn’t blame our problems on Mexicans??

  4. e platypus onion 2023-07-29 14:37 2007

    Drivers protest allowing Mexico trucks in U.S.
    Dozens of truckers rallied at Mexican border crossings in California and Texas Thursday to protest a pilot program to allow up to 100 Mexican trucking companies to haul their cargo anywhere in the United States.

  5. Jake Kammerer 2023-07-29 15:30

    Yellow was also in contract negotiations recently with the Teamster’s Union-which they signed with the Teamsters. last week. The union had in previous contract negotiations given up millions,(if not billions) in wages and benefits to keep this company afloat. This time around, they said “NO MORE” emphatically. The Yellow CEO was a favorite advisor to Trump admin .

  6. Phil 2023-07-30 15:14

    Yeah, but what about Hunter Biden?

  7. OLDTIMERdon 2023-07-31 12:38

    I sure hope we can get Trump back in office again to save more these struggling businesses. Inept management deserves top of the line inept political leadership at the top. I am sure Gov. Kristi can jump in or shake her booty and save the day since she has so much influence with Der Donald Fuhrer. Perhaps she can acquire them and provide low income homes for Native Americans who have already benefited so much from those who imprisoned them (kind of reminds me of DSantis attitude about African Americans who gained so much from being enslaved).
    I was forced to use them by customers and the writing was on the wall over 30 years go. They were a disaster waiting to happen way back then.

  8. jerry 2023-07-31 12:51

    Fire sale all those tractors and trailers man. Now, if we had good rail systems in the US, we could use those tractors and trailers for short haul delivery like we used to do here in this state. Anyone remember Barber Transportation? Yep, they had docks by the rail and would pick up freight and deliver it locally.

  9. Harvey Brown 2023-08-01 21:24

    Nobody will say it, so I will say now. Yellow/Yrc took everything from us, our pension, pay, and gave nothing back. While at the same time they took out huge loans, and gave executives tens of millions in bonuses while incurring massive losses in revenues at the expense of stock holders and threw lavish parties at the Overland Park,Ks headquarters and arrogantly posted pictures of their yachts and sports cars on social media. They built an environment of thier own making where there is no consequence for duping the employees, the stock holders the banks, and the American tax payer.The party is over and they should be held accountable for putting 30,000 hard working families in a bad spot.

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