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TAVARES, FL-Three days before Christmas, the parent of locally-based AG Carriers, a national long-distance hauler, closed its doors, filed for bankruptcy protection and put 400 AG truck drivers out of work. The 33-year-old firm’s sudden exit from Southridge Industrial Park here, 40 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando, leaves an estimated 50,000 sf of warehouse space vacant.

LCT Transportation, formerly Lester Coggins Trucking, a 25-year-old, 500-employee Okahumpka, FL-based firm, is recruiting some of the laid-off drivers but is showing no initial interest in taking over AG’s estimated five-year lease at Southridge Park, according to a published report.

The 275-vehicle fleet is owned by Richard Baugh of nearby Eustis, FL and is part of Asche Transportation Services Inc. based in Shannon, IL. AG Carriers merged with Asche Transportation last year. Asche directors ousted chairman/CEO Larry Asche and vice president Diane Asche earlier this year after auditors alleged the pair misappropriated $1 million, according to Solid Waste Report, a trade publication.

Asche officials blamed its bankruptcy protection filing on an economic slowdown, driver shortages, higher fuel prices and rising insurance and bank interest rates, according to a published report. AG operates its 125 tractor trailers and 150 refrigerated trailers along the East Coast.

The demise of AG Carriers follows a national trend of failing trucking companies, according to a new study by A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., a St. Louis-based securities-trading firm. A total 1,320 truckers went out of business in the third quarter alone, the highest amount ever tracked by Edwards. Failures for the nine-month period this year total 2,685, just below the record 2,708 companies that closed its doors in all of 1997.

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