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Arkansas Best Corp. freezes pension plan for nonunion employees

Arkansas Best Corp. freezes pension plan for nonunion employees

Trucking company Arkansas Best Corp. is freezing its pension plan for nonunion employees, completing a process it began in 2006.

Effective July 1, current plan participants no longer will earn benefits in the plan. The plan has been closed to employees hired after Dec. 31, 2005.

The freeze is “being made to reduce the ongoing costs, including administrative and regulatory costs, associated with the plan,” the Fort Smith, Ark.-based company said in a statement last week, adding that the reduction in pension expense “will be material going forward.”

The pension plan is significantly underfunded, with nearly $261 million in benefit obligations and about $181 million in assets at the end of 2012, according to Arkansas Best's 2012 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Plan participants affected by the freeze will earn future benefits in a defined contribution plan that now covers employees hired after Dec. 31, 2005. Company contributions made on behalf of participants fully vest after three years.

However, Arkansas Best, though, did not make any contributions to the plan in 2012.

Arkansas Best also offers a 401(k) plan in which it has historically matched 50% of employees' salary deferrals, up to 6% of pay. The match, though, was suspended in 2010 and 2011, and reinstated last year.