The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has submitted preliminary reports on special damages in two lawsuits against Mayflower Transit, Inc. of Fenton, MO. The reports were filed Mar. 19, 1999, in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, IN.
The association filed the two lawsuits on April 2, 1998. The suits allege that Mayflower failed to return excess fuel tax credits, overcharged for insurance obtained through the company and failed to return escrow funds at termination of the lease. OOIDA seeks an estimated total of $18.5 million in damages, with $11.8 million sought in the insurance suit against Mayflower. The rest is sought in escrow.
OOIDA member Earl Ribaudo has been living a credit nightmare because of a mistake made by a company to whom he was leased. In December 1998, Ribaudo received a call from United Resource System (URS) dunning him for a school loan he allegedly took out in 1996 to complete commercial driving school through Swift Transportation. There was only one problem. Ribaudo has been licensed to drive a truck since 1965. He didn't go to driving school at Swift.
Ribaudo called the collection agency (URS) and found out his previous carrier, Swift, had hired URS to collect debts from owner-operators who quit them owing money to the company. Ribaudo tried to reason with the young woman in charge of his file, but she insisted he had completed his CDL at Swift and owed the company $1,489.12 including fees and interest.
After faxing documents back and forth, Ribaudo says she changed her story and said the money owed was for accidents that the trucker had while driving for Swift. Ribaudo asked for proof to be faxed to him and discovered the minor accidents occurred in 1994, two years before he had even leased to Swift. In addition, the accidents had no monetary charges pending.
The URS representative's name was Brandi, says Earl. She refused to believe him even with the dated files on her desk. According to Ribaudo, she threatened him with court and court costs. She said they would garnishee his wages and ruin his credit record if he did not pay. Brandi also intimidated his wife with court threats while he was on the road, says Ribaudo.
In January of this year, Ribaudo called OOIDA and was directed to Mary Johnston, Business Services. Mary set up a conference call with Swift, herself, and Ribaudo, in an attempt to clarify the situation. After the call and a follow-up letter, Swift's accounting department found an old charge of $352 for fuel taxes. The head of Swift's accounting department said they would contact URS upon payment and clear Ribaudo's record. Ribaudo immediately paid Swift and his record is now clear.
Ribaudo says his perfect credit record was nearly trashed due to carelessness on his part. He urges truckers to take the time to check their records with company records after they leave.
"You can avoid a big mess later," he says. –Donna Carlson
As a result of recent refinery fires and shutdowns in California, the disruption in the supply of CARB diesel has created a grave situation for small trucking companies in the state. California diesel prices have skyrocketed since February, posting an average price per gallon during the first week of April that was up nearly 35 cents from the month before.
On April 5, the national average (per the DOE) was $1.075. The average in California was $1.448.
Trucking industry leaders, including OOIDA's Jim Johnston, are urging Gov. Gray Davis to exercise his authority to provide relief measures.
"We have asked the governor to suspend the requirement for the state's diesel fuel users to purchase only CARB fuel for the time being," says Johnston, "at least until the fuel prices are commensurate with other states." Ninety-eight percent of all goods shipped in California are moved by truck.
Two rest stops on I-35 near Clear Lake, IA, may be reopened as truck parking areas. The restrooms, however, will not be reopened. Velere Stromer, a trucker from Klemme, IA, organized a petition drive to get the DOT to change its mind. He collected about 2,500 signatures.
Federal Highway Administration has issued 23 waivers to truckdriving applicants who have impaired vision in one eye. According to Paul Brennan, director of Research and Standards at the Office of Motor Carriers, 24 waivers were considered and only one rejected. All of the drivers granted waivers hold CDLs to operate interstate and have accident-free, citation-free driving records.
The notice was published in the April 5 Federal Register. Supporting commentary was received from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Brennan said the only objecting comments came from the American Trucking Associations and J.B. Hunt Transport.
The good news is that the March 31 deadline for states to formally apply for the federal tolling program passed without fanfare, as not one state stepped forward to ask permission to charge tolls on existing interstates. The bad news is, the Federal Highway Administration says it will extend the deadline.
Authorities in Pennsylvania, California and South Carolina seemed interested, but Arkansas was clearly the most serious. The Arkansas Highway Commission actually announced they would pursue the toll, but reversed its position after a diesel fuel tax increase was signed into law in late March.