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End of an Era: NEMF trucks sold at auction

When New England Motor Freight announced its bankruptcy in February, around 200 local employees lost their jobs.

That marked the end for the 101-year-old company, which operated in Carbon County for more than 30 years.

On Monday, an auction company sold off the trucks and trailers one-by-one.

A handful of former drivers and employees were on site to see the assets of their longtime employer go to the highest bidder. They also reminisced about a company which they said was in many ways like a family.

“We had a lot of dedicated people, said Ernie Hardy, the vice president of risk management for NEMF. “There’s a lot of hardworking people who went years doing this, between maintenance, the sales people, working the dock, handling the freight.”

During Monday’s sale, approximately 125 tractors and more than 200 trailers hit the auction block, some for a deep discount. Truck drivers, trucking company owners and even some farmers put in bids.

Large liquidation

Taylor & Martin Inc. auctioneers of Fremont, Nebraska, which specializes in tractor trailer sales, conducted the auction. They are holding 12 sales to liquidate the assets of NEMF. Stacy Tracy, the auction company’s president, said it’s the largest liquidation of a trucking company he has ever come across.

“We’ve done the two biggest auctions outside this one. This is the biggest one we’ve seen,” he said.

In order to sell off over 1,000 lots, TMI used a mobile auction block with a PA system and laptop for online bids. Auctioneer Wilson Clem would call out bids for three hours as a driver took him from lot to lot.

TMI promoted the sale with thousands of brochures sent to trucking companies across the country.

In order to bid, buyers had to put up a $5,000 deposit. Cash is due the day of the sale. Buyers have up to 10 days to pick up their items.

The trucks were parked neatly, organized by year, make and model. Hundreds of trailers were parked with just a few feet of room between them so buyers could take a look. All of the trucks are what is known as “day cabs” — without the sleeper cab which is used by long haul truckers.

NEMF transported almost anything. They served retailers like Macy’s, Home Depot and Starbucks. In recent years, Amazon was a big customer.

They were what is known as a LTL (less than load) carrier because they would carry multiple deliveries on one truck.

Myron “Mike” Shevell bought it in 1976, and added the Lehighton Terminal in 1986. He remained as CEO until the company folded. Shevell operated multiple trucking companies from his base in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Nancy Shevell, who was the company’s vice president of administration, is married to Beatle Paul McCartney.

Employees who were at the auction said both cared about their employees.

Roy Kissinger, who retired from the company’s sales department last year, recalled both Mike and Nancy Shevell having no problem remembering their employee’s names.

Dan Bauer’s career in the terminal’s overages, shortages and damages department started before NEMF took over the terminal. He said Shevell did a much better job running the terminal than the previous owner.

“When he came around, he knew everybody’s name. He’d always take care of you,” Bauer said.

Biggest hub

Lehighton was NEMF’s biggest hub outside of its headquarters in Elizabeth, New Jersey. There were 40 mechanics. Often the company would tow disabled trucks to Lehighton to be worked on.

Al Lombardo ran the maintenance shop. He said when the company announced its bankruptcy, many of his mechanics were able to find other jobs. He was retained to help prepare the shop for liquidation.

“It’s somewhat of a closure for me. I’ve been here all this time. I want to see everything go smooth and move on.”

The closing came as a shock to many employees. Rich “Mac” McLaughlin planned to retire at the end of this year, so he decided to retire early.

“A lot of guys said they did see it coming, I didn’t,” he said.

McLaughlin would drive each day from Lehighton to Pittsburgh and back. A few weeks before the terminal closed, he broke down near Harrisburg and his truck went in for repairs. He said it never returned.

New England Motor Freight started over 100 years ago. Owner Myron “Mike” Shevell acquired it in the ’70s, and acquired the Lehighton terminal in 1986.

Prior to NEMF, a company called Interstate Dress Carriers occupied the terminal. It originally housed trucks which transported blouses from textile mills in the Lehighton area.

The terminal itself remains in the hands of the Shevell Family.

Hardy, the longtime risk management specialist for the company, recalled how NEMF bought the terminal out of bankruptcy. He speculated that another trucking company could occupy it sometime soon.

“As we replaced somebody back in ‘86 when we came here, somebody’s gonna replace us,” he said.

A grill built into a truck cab was used by New England Motor Freight for promotions drew a lot of interest from former employees and sold for $1,850. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
Tommy Ingram of Taylor & Martin auctioneers interacts with bidders during the company’s liquidation of the New England Motor Freight terminal near Lehighton.
Employees with Taylor & Martin Inc. Auctioneers accept bids on trucks at the former New England Motor Freight Terminal in Lehighton on Monday. Taylor & Martin is liquidating all the company's assets. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS