Although he's just one man with one truck, OOIDA member Doug Bailey represents several hundred thousand owner-operators in litigations that could set a significant precedent in whether or not shippers/receivers can get away with lumping abuses. Bailey, who resides in Ravenna, OH, has been a professional trucker for 22 years.
"The idea of a receiver's dock help being paid by owner-operators that deliver the load? Well, it is not only wrong, it's ridiculous!" says Bailey, who is currently the plaintiff in two lumping lawsuits.
In a class action lawsuit against Michigan Repacking and Produce Co., Bailey is the representative of the class, along with OOIDA. The suit charges the defendant with violating federal law (USC Section 14103) by coercing drivers into paying gate fees and lumping charges in order to get their trucks unloaded.
The case filed in April, stemming from a January 1997 incident at the Michigan-based produce warehouse. Bailey was told he was required to pay a $20 "gate fee" to enter the receivers' unloading area. Once inside, he was told he'd have to pay another $20 unloading fee. He objected. When he was paid later for delivering the load, both $20 fees had been deducted from his settlement.
Bailey's separate case against Powerhouse Produce, LLC, in Youngwood, PA, was also filed earlier this year. Although the case is not a class action, it's being handled by OOIDA attorneys. OOIDA initiated the case, convinced of its commonality and confident that this type of grievance could be successfully resolved through the courts. Earlier in the spring, talk of settlement appeared possible, but OOIDA says the announcement of a court date is the next likely development.
Both produce houses are alleged to have violated the lumping statutes in the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 by charging back amounts for unloading services that were not requested or needed. Both produce houses deny any wrongdoing.
Representing Powerhouse Produce is Jeremy D. Margolis of the Chicago law firm of Altheimer and Gray. Margolis called the charges "hogwash."
"We don't make anybody do anything," he told Land Line. "We have a huge sign that says if you want us to unload your truck, here are the fees. If you want to do it yourself, go right ahead. We'll even give you a fork lift."
One particular burr under Bailey's saddle is palletized loads. "Floor loads are another deal, but the whole purpose of a palletized load is that you can get in, get out. When you get charged $85 to take a palletized load off your truck, it's outrageous! It takes 15 to 20 minutes!"
"They've been getting away with it for years. It's time to stop it now," Bailey says. "We need truckers to come forward and take a stand. Let OOIDA know about the offenders, because it's going to continue to happen until we take steps to stop it."
"The law is very clear about this," says OOIDA President Jim Johnston, "but the law is grossly ignored. Owner-operators work too hard to make a living to have to endure this kind of financial drain. It's illegal and there is simply no reason that it should be so routinely tolerated.
OOIDA v. Rocor International, Inc.
OOIDA has filed a class action against Rocor International (Donco) alleging violations of both the federal leasing regulations and the laws of the State of Oklahoma with regard to Workers Compensation Fraud. Rocor has asked for an extension of time in which to respond to the complaint. This is a fairly standard request, and a 30 day extension was granted. Discovery requests will be served shortly.
OOIDA takes on Pilot, Flying J
This case is in the preliminary stages of litigation. Discovery requests have been served on the defendants, and issues relating to those requests are being resolved at this time.
The lawsuit against Flying J and Pilot Corporation is pending in the Tennessee courts. This suit was filed as a class action in response to member complaints of being charged three cents (or more) per gallon for fuel purchased with a Visa or MasterCard. OOIDA contends that members are victims of discrimination in that non-truckers don't pay higher amounts when purchasing fuel with consumer credit cards. Flying J specifically offers below cash pricing to certain RV owners and other travelers regardless of how they pay for fuel.
The OOIDA suit contends charging more than the advertised fuel price when a trucker pays with Visa or MasterCard violates the merchant agreement each truckstop signs when they agree to honor Visa and MasterCard.
Indications are that since the suit has been filed, Pilot has ceased charging higher amounts for credit card payments; however truckers report that Flying J continues the controversial practice.
OOIDA v. Mayflower Transit
OOIDA has filed two separate actions against Mayflower for violations of the federal leasing regulations. The first challenges Mayflower's failure to refund escrow balances at the end of a lease and its failure to refund fuel-tax credits on a current basis. The second alleges that Mayflower overcharges for insurance policies.
These cases are in the preliminary stages of litigation. Mayflower has filed motions to dismiss these cases, arguing that these claims cannot be brought to federal court by owner-operators. OOIDA has sought to obtain information from Mayflower, showing the extent of these practices. Mayflower has resisted this discovery, and OOIDA is seeking the court's assistance to supply the requested information.
Padrta v. Ledar Transport, Inc.
In another legal action, OOIDA, on behalf of several members, has successfully challenged the leasing practices of Ledar Transport, Inc. of Kansas City, MO. In this class action suit, Ledar was found to have 1) failed to provide an accurate accounting and/or return escrow funds; 2) failed to pay in a timely fashion for loads delivered; 3) refused to pay interest on escrow funds; 4) deducted amounts from owner-operators' settlements for claims that never occurred; 5) understated trip miles to reduce amounts owed to owner-operators; 6) overcharged lease operators for fuel; and 7) charged owner-operators for road and fuel taxes for states where they had not traveled.
The U.S. District court has issued a default judgement in favor of the owner-operators. Currently, a magistrate judge has ordered Ledar to hire an accountant to reconcile individual accounts of leased owner-operators.
Prime and Arctic Express
Both lawsuits allege that Prime and Arctic withhold escrow funds in violation of federal truth-in-leasing regulations. The OOIDA suits are based on a "private right of action" approved by Congress when the ICC was abolished. This provision in the law allows individuals to pursue grievances through the courts.
Prime objected to being sued under the "private rights of action" clause arguing that the leasing regulations can only be enforced by federal agencies, formerly the ICC and now DOT. In the first round, the court agreed with Prime, but OOIDA filed an appeal and separately petitioned DOT for a determination. On June 10, 1998, the FHWA published a notice in the Federal Register stating that it would not enter into disputes arising under the truth-in-leasing regulations and the federal courts should handle these issues.
Prime and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) then filed appeals at the FHWA and in the appeals court. In August, FHWA notified the parties that the motion for consideration filed by Prime and ATA had been denied and the case is currently pending before the appeals court.