High fuel prices linked to the Persian Gulf conflict and a midwinter recession have forced Airfax Express Inc. to cease operations, says company president Ralph Atkin.

About 150 employees were affected by the local trucking company's closure after 18 years of operation. Workers were told this week that the company was going out of business.Atkin said that the Middle East crisis hiked fuel prices so high that "we weren't able to pass it on to the customer.

Complicating Airfax's financial woes was a December-January economic downturn that slashed the company's shipping volume.

Atkin said all of the equipment at Airfax will be returned to various lessors, lenders and others.

In 1990, the company did $9.5 million worth of business.

"It's a struggle," said Atkin. "We finally had it turned around and were making a profit until Aug. 2. There was little we could do when the recession went."