Complaint alleges ROCLease program violates 13th Amendment and federal "Truth-In-Leasing" regulations
On March 30, 2000, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc. (OOIDA), and four plaintiffs, Michael Parker, Noel Stone, Willie Clairbush, and Brian Wilkerson, filed a class-action lawsuit against Rocor International, Inc., in the federal district court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The complaint alleges that Rocor's practices with regard to its "ROCLease" program are illegal in several respects, including:
- The unauthorized sale of medical and life insurance without a license, coupled with failure to disclose in the lease documents how the amount charged back to drivers for that insurance will be computed;
- fraudulently inducing drivers to join the program by promising them an option to purchase the trucks, many (if not all) of which Rocor does not own and therefore cannot sell;
- requiring drivers to use a fleet card for fuel so that the company can gain undisclosed negotiated discounts, which the company does not pass through to the drivers;
- overcharging drivers for state fuel taxes;
- deducting "hidden charges" from drivers' compensation;
- failing to refund escrow account funds;
- failing to pay interest on escrow accounts;
- issuing memos that add chargebacks not detailed in the lease documents; and charging fees not documented in the lease for repair work, above and beyond the actual cost of the work performed when the work is charged to the maintenance escrow account.
The complaint also accuses Rocor of keeping the ROCLease drivers in peonage, a violation of the 13th Amendment's prohibition on involuntary servitude, and a violation of the drivers' right to make and enforce contracts under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
"The allegations in the complaint present a classic example of carrier abuse that reduces an owner-operator to the status of a peon," notes Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA. A peon is a person who works off a debt under compulsion. According to the complaint, Rocor's lease-purchase agreement states that if a ROCLease driver terminates his lease to go to work for some other company, that will be treated as a default on the lease-purchase deal. As soon as the driver quits, the truck is repossessed, but the driver is still held accountable for the balance of the money owed under the lease portion of the contract, and Rocor allegedly enforces that debt by placing liens on drivers' personal property.
"We already have one lawsuit going against Rocor and we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to eliminate driver abuse at Rocor," said Johnston.
The complaint in the first action, which is also pending in the Western District of Oklahoma, alleges that Rocor's practices with regard to its Workers' Compensation Insurance program are illegal under various theories under both state and federal law. See Land Line July/August 1998.
Are you a current or former ROCLease driver? OOIDA wants to hear from you. Call Gary Green or Karen England at OOIDA's Business Services Department at 1-800-444-5791.